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From the Desk of a Budding Scientist: A Q&A with Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar Katherine Xie '22

It isn't every day that a student receives recognition for being one of the world's top future leaders in science. But recently, for Form VI student Katherine Xie, that day did come. Katherine was recently announced as one of the top 300 scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) 2022. The Society for Science — the organization that founded Regeneron STS — had this to say about the program:

"The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides students a national stage to present original research and celebrates the hard work and novel discoveries of young scientists who are bringing a fresh perspective to significant global challenges. The 300 scholars and their schools will be awarded $2,000 each. The Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars were selected from 1,805 applications received from 603 high schools across 46 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and 8 other countries."

What an accomplishment! Check out the Q&A with Katherine below where she speaks about her research, science journey, and goals for the future.

Q: When did your love for science begin?

A: One of the most distinct childhood memories I have is of watching PBS's Nature program—I guess I've always been curious about the natural world around us.


Q: How did you learn about the Regeneron Science Talent Search?

A: I spent the summer after my junior year interning at Boston University, where I did an original research project in computational neuroscience. Looking for science competitions to enter my research afterward, I stumbled upon the Regeneron Science Talent Search in late October, only a couple of weeks before the submission deadline!


Q: Can you tell us a bit more about your Regeneron STS experience?

A: Since I discovered Regeneron STS late in the game, I only had about two weeks to put together my application. The application itself was pretty extensive and included a full research report, teacher and mentor recommendations, academic records, and many essays to demonstrate my potential as a budding scientist. The main component of my application was the research report. Even though I had completed most of my research by that time, I still had to put together a well-thought-out and organized paper detailing my experimental results and effectively communicating my findings as well as their real-world applications. Putting my work into writing, I learned that scientific writing is an essential part of the research process, a unique opportunity allowing me to examine my thought process, test the rigor of my hypotheses, and present my data with clarity. I enjoyed every step of my research experience!


Q: Tell us more about your research, please!

A: This was a computational neuroscience research project, in which I built a computational model of an olfactory neural circuit to study how structural changes within the circuit impact its learning capacity. My research findings further our understanding of olfactory learning, providing important clues to understanding the mechanisms underlying learning and memory. This can help us develop olfaction-inspired AI and better treatments of neurodegenerative disorders.


Q: How did Pingry help prepare you for this honor or provide support along the way?

A: In retrospect, all the computer science classes I've taken since middle school, math classes like statistics, science classes ranging from biology to physics, and even English classes, which have sharpened my writing skills, were all an integral part of my preparation. Also, on the Shallowmind IRT [Independent Research Team] team, I've gained knowledge and hands-on experiences studying artificial neural networks, which came in handy when I built a computational model of olfactory neural circuits as part of my research last summer. Not to mention all the support I've gotten from countless teachers over the years, I would say my Pingry education has definitely prepared me well. 


Q: Now that you've made the top 300, how do you feel?

A: I am honored to be counted in this group of exceptional high school seniors. It means a lot to be recognized for the research that I did, and this award has absolutely encouraged me to further pursue research in STEM.


Q: Do you have any goals for the future related to Regeneron, this achievement, or science in general?

A: The research that I did definitely piqued my interest in the field of computational neuroscience. Studying neuroscience through a computational lens is a crucial component of the broader effort to decipher how different parts of the brain learn and process information, which, in turn, could also propel artificial intelligence to the next level of intelligence. I look forward to further exploring this fascinating field in the future. 

A special thanks to Katherine for sharing her story and a huge congratulations to her, again, for earning one of the highest science honors in Pingry's history. 


Contact: Destiny Esper, Assistant Director of Communications