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Adam Ardeishar, Eshika Saxena Among Top Winners In
2019 Regeneron Science Talent Search

Press Release

Two Indian American students are among the top winners of the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors drawing exceptionally qualified entrants from across the country.

Adam Ardeishar, 17, of McLean, Virginia, secured third place in the rigorous competition and was awarded $150,000 for combining a mathematical dilemma known as the ‘coupon collector problem’ with extreme value theory to determine the likelihood of a maximal event.

“The indicator is important for calculating a 1000-year flood or where you have a lot of market unrest,” he told us adding, it can also be applied to an engineering process. “If you are a plant manager and you want to build a schedule, you can know the average amount of time it takes to do it,” he said.

Currently a student at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a STEM magnet in Alexandria, Adam is a math whiz! He earned a silver medal in the 2018 International Mathematical Olympiad in which pre-college students tackle some of the hardest math problems. He was one of only six students selected to represent the US and helped his team to win the event.

In his spare time, Adam loves creating beautiful origami pieces as he finds the process of repeatedly folding paper “rhythmic, meditative and relaxing.”

Eshika Saxena of Bellevue, Washington, was awarded $40,000 for developing a system to screen for blood-related diseases using a smartphone. The gifted student, exemplifying girl power, has been accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she plans to major in electrical engineering and computer science.

About her project, Eshika, 17, currently a student at Interlake High School, told us, “I turn the smartphone camera into a microscope so you can capture images of blood cells using just your smartphone camera and my attachment”.

She then developed software to segment each individual blood cell from the images and classified the cells based on different diseases that they might indicate.

“I specifically focused on sickle cell disease which is characterized by a crescent-shaped cell and I was able to distinguish between sickle cells and healthy cells with a 95.6 percent accuracy,” she said. “Typically, blood-related diseases are screened by doctors who look at blood under a microscope and are normally looking for abnormalities”.

Eshika’s innovation is a time and cost effective method. “Having this software do the analysis and having the smartphone microscope allows it to be used very fast,” she explained adding “it gives more people access to screenings.”

Eshika hopes to pursue more research in Artificial Intelligence and applications relating to healthcare. “I would like to get a PhD degree and perhaps become a professor because I really enjoy teaching and doing research,” she says.

The Indian American teens were among 40 finalists who over the course of a week, March 7 to13, presented their innovative research projects to eminent judges, competed for more than $1.8 million in awards, interacted with renowned scientists, met with members of Congress, and displayed their work to the public at the National Geographic Society headquarters. Winners of the top ten awards, ranging from $40,000 up to $250,000 dollars, were announced Tuesday evening at a formal awards gala held in the historic National Building Museum.

The top award was conferred on Ana Humphrey, 18, of Alexandria, for her mathematical model to determine the possible locations of exoplanets which are outside the solar system and may have been missed by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. In second place was Samuel Weissman, 17, of Rosemont, Pennsylvania, awarded $175,000 for his project which expands understanding of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and may impact future treatment approaches.

Delivering the keynote address at the gala, Indian American physician and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee noted, “We’re here not to just award prizes, but responsibilities.” A cancer expert, his message to the finalists was: “Let’s get to work because there’s a lot to do”.

Congratulating the top winners, Dr. George Yancopoulos, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, professed they “embody true scientific and mathematical ingenuity”.

“We are always inspired by the work of these talented young people, and this year’s winners have impressed us with their curiosity and desire to improve the world around them. My experience as a winner in the Science Talent Search changed my life and was an important early step on my path to a life devoted to using the power of science to do good. I hope it has the same impact on these young scientists since now more than ever, we need brilliant minds like theirs to find solutions to our world’s most pressing challenges,” he said.

In the current edition of the Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS), the finalists hailed from 34 schools in 17 states. Earlier this year, 300 scholars were selected from a pool of nearly 2,000 applicants, and each semi-finalist was awarded $2,000 in addition to their school receiving a grant of an equivalent amount. Of these ‘Top Scholars’, 40 finalists who receive a minimum award of $25,000 were announced January 23 of which 18, over 40 percent, were Indian American students. These are mind-boggling figures given that Indian Americans comprise about one percent of the US population.

“South Asian Americans have done incredibly well,” Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science and the Public, told us. “You see this flow of immigrants over time.”

Why is that?, we asked.

Ajmera, “the daughter of Indian immigrants to this country” and an alumni of the STS, responded, “Many of the high-tech companies that have been founded in this country are by immigrants or the children of immigrants. There is some form of co-relation. I don’t know whether it is grit and hard work or drive and a very strong emphasis on education,” she said.

The finalists, a diverse lot, exemplify and embody the best and brightest in America! They have attempted to tackle some of the world’s most compelling issues through their scientific projects.


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