Forty finalists were honored last month at the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search awards gala. Regeneron provided awards totaling more than $1.8 million for the finalists, who were evaluated for their research projects, as well as their exceptional scientific and mathematical knowledge, problem-solving abilities and potential as future scientific leaders. Called the “Super Bowl of Science” by President George H. W. Bush, the Regeneron Science Talent Search is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.
Zoe Weiss, a senior at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County, was the first Georgia student to place in the top 40 since 2014. As a top 40 finalist, Weiss received $25,000 for creating an algorithm to detect rare cell types from single-cell gene-expression data that could help detect early disease diagnosis.
“Without data from an ample number of genes, state-of-the-art computational methods fail to detect rare cells, such as a circulating tumor cell among the millions of cells in an otherwise normal blood sample,” says Weiss. “I overcame these limitations by developing and validating computational methods for detecting rare cells on increasingly complex sets of data, including single-cell gene-expression data from both animals and humans, and on which the leading methodology did not work.”