Yanna Bravewolf ’22 and Ben Choi ’22 have been named Top 300 Scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2022, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. This year, 1,804 students from 603 high schools across 46 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and eight countries entered the competition.
“Selected not only for their research skills and commitment to academics, our two scholars presented innovative projects that set them apart as promising young scientists in the years to come,” said Dr. Isabelle Cohen, Upper School science teacher and advisor. “While both students truly enjoy the scientific process that led them to these amazing results, they are equally motivated by the notion that their work might benefit others in the future.”
Continuing his work, which began in fall 2020, Ben sought to make further advancements to the 3D printed prosthetic arm he developed. The arm, controlled by a brainwave-detecting headband placed on the forehead, has moved out of the prototype phase and will soon enter clinical trials. Over the past year, Ben’s focus has been on fine-tuning the brain-controlled prosthesis. His work included assessing volunteers, collecting data, and creating neural networks – systems that use AI algorithms to make predictions – to input and verify the data. Through trial and error, he was able to successfully improve accuracy and movement to 95%, as compared to a normal arm. Ultimately, Ben’s goal is to make his “prosthesis accessible to all” – a driving factor in his decision to use 3D printing technology when developing his initial prototype.
Yanna is fascinated with both the field of bioengineering and using technology to serve the greater good. She was mentored by University of Pennsylvania professor Saar Gill and spent the summer before her senior year working in his lab, becoming immersed in her research. The idea behind her project was to develop a potential therapeutic approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease. Using immune system cells that she genetically engineered, Yanna found that the modified cells were able to remove the amyloid-beta protein, a destructive molecule that contributes to memory loss in the brain. The use of such modified immune system cells could have therapeutic benefits in treating Alzheimer’s.
Both Yanna and Ben are part of Potomac’s Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC), a program that provides students with the opportunity to do high-level, independent research projects.
As a result of being named Top 300 Scholars, Yanna and Ben will each receive a $2,000 award. The Potomac School will also receive two $2,000 awards to be used in support of STEM-related activities. On January 20, the Regeneron Science Talent Search will name this year’s top 40 finalists, who will then compete in Washington, DC, for more than $1.8 million in awards during a week-long event in March. We congratulate Yanna and Ben on their accomplishments and wish them continued success!
The full list of scholars can be viewed here.