Jeffrey Wang ’21 is among the top 40 in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021. As noted on the press release, “The 2021 finalists were selected from 1,760 highly qualified entrants, all of whom completed an original research project and extensive application process. The finalists are each to be awarded at least $25,000; the top 10 awards range from $40,000 to $250,000. The top 10 Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021 winners will be announced during a live-streamed virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday, March 17.
Prior to the ceremony, the finalists’ projects will be exhibited in a virtual competition March 10-14. On the 14th, Jeffrey and the other finalists will “have an opportunity to interact with leading scientists,” according to the press release. “Usually held in person in Washington, D.C., the 2021 competition will take place virtually in order to keep the finalists and their families safe during the ongoing pandemic.”
Jeffrey’s peers in this stage of the competition come from 38 schools in 15 states, and their projects cover a broad spectrum of science disciplines, “including behavioral and social sciences, biochemistry, bioengineering, cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, computational biology and bioinformatics, computer science, earth and planetary sciences, engineering, environmental science, genomics, materials science, mathematics, medicine and health, physics, plant sciences and space science.”
Bishop’s science teacher Dr. Anthony Pelletier is Jeffrey’s project advisor; he explains the ongoing work, which includes a soon to be published scientific paper with Jeffrey listed as a co-author.
Dr. Pelletier says, “DNA is thin, but very long. Each cell in your body has about two meters (six feet or so) of DNA in its nucleus. To fit that much in the nucleus, it is folded into a tightly packed structure known as ‘chromatin.’ It has been known for some time that the packing is not random. Each nucleus has the DNA organized, much as you would organize your workshop or kitchen with the right tools and components where they can be most efficiently used. But the details of that organization are hard to discern and the logic of it has been elusive.
The lab in which Jeffrey works is studying what genes are near each other in the organized nucleus. The work generates enormous amounts of data that is very hard to analyze. ‘Big Data’ problems, as this is known, are common these days in science. Jeffrey joined the lab to work on the computing side, developing strategies to analyze the mountains of data generated. He came to me to discuss the biological side of chromatin organization and what it could all mean. He gradually took on a greater role in analyzing the meaning of the data, which resulted in the work now on its way to publication and which has been cited by the RSTS program
What is so impressive about Jeffrey is how he has developed into a complete scientist. He started doing a specific task, being a cog in the larger machine. However, because of his relentless drive to understand and his prodigious talent, he probed deeper into the research until he was directing a significant part of the research and asking the questions that drove the project. That’s a huge mark of maturity when it happens in the development of a graduate student working on a PhD. To see it in a high-school student is rare—so rare that I cannot think of another student I have taught in 20 years as a high-school teacher who was so mature as a scientist.”
We wish Jeffrey well in the March competition!