North Carolina School of Science and Math's Watts Building Credit: Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), via Wikipedia

Officials with the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition announced last week that four Triangle students are among the 40 students from across the country selected as finalists to compete for more than $1.8 million in awards.

Now in its 82nd year, the finalists will participate in the week-long Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023 and “undergo a rigorous judging process that goes beyond their own research to encompass other scientific disciplines,” according to a press release from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and the Society For Science.

The math and science showcase is like the Super Bowl for brilliant high school students who have demonstrated exceptional promise in the two disciplines.

Indeed, the four Triangle students, who are all enrolled at the NC School of Science and Mathematics, submitted projects that are astounding.

They are:

Kamisi Adetunji

Kamisi Adetunji, who investigated a possible treatment for sickle cell disease, a group of genetic blood disorders that cause circular red blood cells to deform into a crescent shape. Kamisi, according to the release, “modified antioxidants found in fruit and discovered that this may help preserve the original shape of the red blood cells. She hopes her work will one day lead to a treatment for this debilitating disease.”

Angela Chen

Angela Chen, who, “inspired by a family friend who almost lost their life during a fire, developed a machine learning model that studied wildfire risk in California, taking into account nine different environmental variables. She hopes her model will better predict burn areas and regional wildfire risks in the coming years.”

James Linden

Linden James, who “investigated the potential of the thyroid hormone T3 to treat traumatic brain injury in humans. They used wax moth caterpillars as a model and found that the hormone shows promise as a potential future therapy.”

Obi Oziomachukwu

Ozioma Obi, who “investigated the ability of a combination of two drugs, Ibudilast and Interleukin 4, to combat neurodegeneration in an earthworm model of multiple sclerosis. He found that the drugs restored neuron function better when combined than when used separately. He hopes similar results can be achieved in humans.”

“Many past winners continue to pursue innovation for the good of society and the planet, with program alumni receiving some of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 22 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, as well as becoming the founders of many important science-based companies, such as Regeneron,” according to the release.

The release notes that the “finalists’ research projects showcase their breadth of knowledge, their commitment to addressing issues important to modern society, and their passion for STEM. 

“Multiple students chose to explore research topics on climate change; for instance, one studied the environmental potential of human-made materials such as cement to help reduce emissions, and another evaluated the correlation between air pollution and COVID-19 cases.

“Some students invented health monitoring devices, like a color-changing sensor to help detect the presence of illicit drugs in drinks; others explored topics related to space, including a new method to test for the existence of large populations of black holes,” the release continued.

Meanwhile, other finalists explored social and political issues, including “an examination of media coverage about violent crimes to understand its impact on societal perceptions, and an evaluation of linguistic features in writing to predict suicide risk.”

According to the release, the finalists are enrolled at 34 schools across 14 states. The $1.8 million in cash prizes include a top prize of $250,000. The finalists were chosen from a pool of 300 scholars and 1,949 entrants “based on the originality and creativity of their scientific research, as well as their achievement and leadership both inside and outside of the classroom.”

The finalists will “interact with leading scientists and share their research during a virtual ‘Public Day,’ event on March 12. The top 10 winners will be announced during an awards ceremony on March 14, via live streaming from Washington, D.C.

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