High School senior wins the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2024 competition

From left, winners Thomas Cong, Achyuta Rajaram, and Michelle Wei. PHOTO: prnewswire.com

Achyuta Rajaram, a seventeen-year-old Indian-American from Exeter, New Hampshire, clinched the top spot in the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) 2024, securing a cash prize of $250,000, for developing “an automatic method to discover which parts of a computer model are involved in decision-making.”

This knowledge illuminates the cognitive processes of these algorithms, potentially enhancing their effectiveness, fairness, and safety.

STS empowers “young people who are passionate about innovation and using scientific
discovery to contribute to improving our world,” noted a statement from Regeneron
Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the Society for Science. For the past 83 years, the competition
popularly known as “America’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors” has continually recognized budding innovators who go on to become future leaders in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

Indian Americans have topped this competition many times.

This year’s finalists “demonstrated extensive scientific knowledge through research and
interviews while showcasing their commitment to addressing societal issues, passion for
discovery, noteworthy leadership and community involvement,” STS added.

Forty finalists, including Rajaram, were honored at an award ceremony recently. The finalists, chosen from the largest pool of entrants since the 1960s, received over $1.8 million through a comprehensive evaluation process.

Thomas Cong, a 17-year-old from Ossining, NY won the second place “for investigating the
rapid growth of certain cancers and whether information controlling metabolism is primarily
controlled by the expression of genetic information.”

Michelle Wei, also a 17-year-old, from San Jose, CA secured the third place “for finding that second-order cone programming problems can be solved more quickly than previously thought by converting the original problem into a modified form.”

“Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search,” said Maya
Ajmera, president and CEO, Society for Science, and Executive Publisher, Science News in the statement. “The remarkable intellect and ingenuity of these students serves as an inspiration for us all. Their groundbreaking innovations are vital in uncovering the crucial solutions we need now to address our most intractable challenges.”

Co-Founder, Board co-Chair, and President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, Dr. George Yancopoulos, congratulated the winners.

“My own participation in the Science Talent Search during my high school years sparked a
lifelong commitment to science and set me on my path of inventing and developing new
medicines for previously untreatable diseases,” Yancopoulos said. He was a top winner in the STS competition in 1976. He further added that the finalists had just embarked on their journeys and their remarkable accomplishments at such a youthful stage inspire confidence that they eventually pioneer significant innovative breakthroughs that will immensely benefit humanity.

Arnav Chakravarthy. PHOTO; X @arnavc360

Other high school students of Indian origin who won included ninth place winner, 18-year-old Arnav Chakravarthy, of Cupertino, CA for “comparing the genetic origins of a type of immune cell, known as macrophages, in the brain, liver and bone marrow to learn more about how they replenish themselves.”

Many cells can be traced back to their “embryonic beginnings,” but Chakravarthy has discovered evidence suggesting that specific brain cells might also regenerate from people’s bone marrow as they grow older. His discoveries hold promise for potential targeted treatments for age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Aditi Avinash. PHOTO: X @Rock Canyon HS

Seventeen-year-old Aditi Avinash, of Highlands Ranch, CO, was honored as the recipient of the Seaborg Award and was granted chance to address the Regeneron Science Talent Search Class of 2024.

From among the 40 finalists, Avinash was selected by her peers as the student who best embodies the spirit of their class and the remarkable qualities of nuclear chemist Glenn T. Seaborg. Seaborg was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1951 and dedicated 30 years to serving on the Society’s Board of Trustees and remains an inspiration to the scientific community.



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