17-Year-Old Girl Wins Prestigious Science Award & $250K Prize

17 year-old Indrani Das of New Jersey is a high school student from New Jersey, and she just did the remarkable. She snagged the top award in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search –the nation’s oldest science and math competition.

There’s more than just bragging rights at stake here. Indrani’s award comes with a $250,000 payout.

More than 1,700 high school seniors entered the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017, and in January the competition’s 40 finalists from around the U.S. were announced. They were selected “based on the scientific rigor and world-changing potential of their research projects.”

Indrani ended up winning the top award for her study of a possible approach to treating the death of neurons due to brain injury or neurodegenerative disease. Here’s how it’s explained in the official announcement:

“A contributor to neuron death is astrogliosis, a condition that occurs when cells called astrocytes react to injury by growing, dividing and reducing their uptake of glutamate, which in excess is toxic to neurons. In a laboratory model, she showed that exosomes isolated from astrocytes transfected with microRNA-124a both improved astrocyte uptake of glutamate and increased neuron survival.”

I’m no scientist, but that sounds like potentially life-enhancing work for those affected by brain injury or neurodegenerative disease. Pretty incredible work, right?

Because Indrani is amazing like that, in addition to her schoolwork and coming up with new approaches to treating brain related ailments, she also mentors younger researchers. And tutors math. And plays the piccolo trumpet in a jazz ensemble.

And to think, I was proud of myself for remembering to take the trash out last night.

This year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search second and third place winners are no slouches either. Second place honors and $175,000 went to Aaron Yeiser, 18, of Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, for his development of a new mathematical method for solving partial differential equations on complicated geometries. And third place honors and $150,000 went to Arjun Ramani, 18, of West Lafayette, Indiana, for blending the mathematical field of graph theory with computer programming to answer questions about networks.

Society for Science & the Public has organized and produced the Science Talent Search since it was founded in 1942. Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News, said in a statement about this year’s winners, “Now more than ever, we need our nation’s best and brightest young minds to pursue their interest in science and use their talents to solve our world’s most intractable problems.”

A gala took place to honor the forty finalists, including Indrani of course. In total, more than $1.8 million in awards was handed out. The prize money was provided by Regeneron, which is a science-based biopharmaceutical company that “discovers, invents, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines for the treatment of serious medical conditions.”

George D. Yancopoulos is the President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron. He is also a former recipient of the Science Talent Search award. His take on all this: ”My experience as a Science Talent Search winner led me to embark on a career in science, and I hope it will inspire these exceptional young scientists to become the next generation of innovators that will improve the world and solve some of our most pressing challenges as a society.”

There’s still a lot of work to be done to close the gender gap in science and math related fields. It’s important to reflect on the role of culture in keeping girls out of science – but also to make sure girls get how cool science is.

There are plenty of examples of girls excelling in science and math. Like this 12 year-old who changed the way scientists see lionfish. And the teen who came up with a breast cancer computer program. Indrani is in good company, for sure.

Here’s to a future filled with even more girls who excel in science and math.

Photo Credit: Society for Science & the Public/Chris Ayers

116 comments

Marie W
Marie W21 hours ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Marie W
Marie W22 hours ago

Thanks for sharing

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Jaime J
Jaime J2 months ago

Thank you!!

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JT S
JT Smith3 months ago

Good for her!

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Carl R
Carl R3 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Louise A
Louise A4 months ago

Inspiring. Thanks.

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Carl R
Carl R4 months ago

thanks!!!!

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Marija M
Marija M4 months ago

Congratulations!

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Henry M
Henry M4 months ago

She did better than I will at the science contest I should be participating in instead of reading this article.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson4 months ago

Good for her.

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