Teen scientist Eshani Jha wins 3rd place and $150K at 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search



Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021 third place winner Eshani Jha. Photo: Society for Science Twitter

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Society for Science (the Society) recently announced the top 10 honorees, including four Indian-Americans, of the 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

Forty finalists from the competition that took place online were honored on March 17 during a virtual winners’ award ceremony. More than $1.8 million was awarded to the finalists, who were evaluated based on their projects’ scientific rigor, their exceptional problem-solving abilities and their potential to become scientific leaders.

Yunseo Choi, 18, of Exeter, New Hampshire came in first place with the $250,000 award and Noah Getz, 17, of New York, New York came in second with the $175,000 award, according to the press release from the Society.

Third place and $150,000 went to Eshani Jha, 17, of San Jose, California, for her development of a biochar filtration system that removes microplastics, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and heavy metals (such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury) from drinking water.

Biochar has properties similar to charcoal but is much more sustainable and affordable because it can be made from biowastes. Jha found that its effectiveness could be enhanced by increasing its surface area and carbon content and by adding certain chemical modifications to improve its ability to sequester contaminants. She estimates her filter would cost under a dollar per month, said the release.

Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science, Publisher of Science News and 1985 Science Talent Search alumna congratulated the winners and said in the release, “These young people are the stewards of our future and I could not be more inspired by their hard work and pure grit.”

Gopal Goel. Photo: societyforscience.org

Gopal Goel, 17, of Portland, Oregon who won fourth place received a $100,000 award for math research that made connections between two subjects regarding randomness and probability.

He believes his work can be useful to researchers in the fields of nuclear physics, quantum field theory and meteorology, and hopes it will aid in the search for the true nature of quantum gravity, more commonly known as “the theory of everything.”

Vetri Vel. Photo: societyforscience.org

In sixth place, Vetri Vel, 16, of Veazie, Maine received a $80,000 award for his project engineering a deep learning system that combines a small computer and a thermal camera to detect heat signatures of a fallen person and immediately text for help.

Alay Shah, 17, of Plano, Texas, in seventh place, received a $70,000 award for the development of a diagnostic tool that tracks eye movement to identify neurological disorders that he hopes can become a low-cost alternative to MRIs.

Each finalist not in the top 10 received $25,000. These include four Indian-American students:

  • Laalitya Acharya, 17, William Mason High School
  • Akhilesh Varadan Balasingam, 17, Archbishop Mitty High School
  • Vedanth Iyer, 17, Sunset High School
  • Anushka Sanyal, 17, Homestead High School

The finalists were selected from 1,760 applications received from 611 high schools across 45 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and 10 countries, according to a press release by the Society.




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