King School is proud to share that two students, Ben Persily ’23 and Gouri Krishnan ’23, have been selected as Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) Top Scholars for their research work in King’s Advanced Science Program for Independent Research and Engineering (ASPIRE).
The prestigious nature of this scholarship can not be overstated: previous recipients of this award have gone on to collect 14 Nobel Prizes and 19 MacArthur Fellows, among other extraordinary accolades.
This year, 1,949 students from 627 high schools across 48 states and five countries submitted research projects to the Society for Science’s Regeneron Science Talent Search. The applicants were narrowed down to 300 Top Scholars from 194 high schools in 35 states. The field will be narrowed to 40 finalists at the end of January.
King’s ASPIRE course focuses on math and science research techniques, providing methods to help students further understand how research is conducted. In conjunction with the class, students intern at a National Institutes of Health funded research laboratory, the most distinguished, where they get hands-on experience in the field of modern scientific research.
“I could not be more proud of these students,” said Dr. Victoria Schulman, who serves as King’s Director of Science Research and oversees ASPIRE. “They are doing things I didn’t even attempt until I was in graduate school. Witnessing a student grow from a young teen with an interest in science to an innovative scientist who is producing work that is of the same caliber as professional researchers is my greatest joy. Indeed, the research and the written reports became so advanced that I couldn’t tell the difference between the students’ work and their lab mentors’ work.”
This level of academic rigor is central to King’s educational approach.
“This prestigious recognition sets King apart as a premier school for inquiry-based learning and research,” said Head of School Carol Maoz. “The mentorship and inspiration of the science teachers, especially that of Dr. Schulman, demonstrates the school’s commitment to excellence and our celebration of the curiosity, hard work, and tenacity of our students.”
With the help of Schulman, Gouri joined a research team at Yale University and Ben joined a team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute. Both Ben and Gouri said that as soon as they learned they had been selected as a Top Scholar, they raced to find Schulman and celebrate.
“I would not have been able to do this without the support and guidance of Dr. Schulman and the entire ASPIRE Program,” Gouri said. “Whether it be obtaining my internship or learning critical research and writing skills, the ASPIRE program has truly allowed me to fulfill my potential as a scientist.”
With an interest in clean energy, Gouri’s research focuses on the development of energy-saving electrochromic color-changing windows that will reduce energy use and waste. Her design mitigates climate change by reducing carbon emissions buildings give off while maintaining indoor climate control.
“Though my internship often required long days in the lab, this recognition feels like confirmation that my work can have a tangible impact on the field of environmental science and clean energy,” Gouri said.
Ben’s research sought to optimize prime editing to target “reporter” genes and ameliorate genetic disorders in pluripotent stem cells. For the past two summers he has attempted to correct the leading cause of cystic fibrosis (a mutation in the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator gene), as well as using the SOX2 gene to optimize the prime editing system.
“I had already known research is something I want to dedicate lots of my college and career experience to,” Ben said of being named a Top Scholar, “but having this recognition only deepened and validated my already strong commitment.”
Founded in 1921, the Society for Science is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement through information, education, and inspiration. It is best known for global science research competitions, STEM programs, and the magazine Science News, which King subscribes to and makes available to all students.
The Society for Science started the Science Talent Search in 1942. The competition has been sponsored by different corporations including Westinghouse and Intel. Regeneron is its current sponsor.
The talent search is the nation’s oldest science and math competition and focuses on identifying, inspiring, and engaging the most promising scientists among high school seniors. Before students can compete, they must meet a threshold of project hours and the application process itself is grueling with each application being about 85-95 pages long.
Gouri and Ben will each be awarded $2,000 for their accomplishment as Top Scholars. King will also be awarded $2,000 for each scholar. On Tuesday, January 24, 40 of the 300 Top Scholars will be named Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists. In March, the finalists will convene in Washington, D.C. where they will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards.
The ASPIRE program is supported by the Advanced Mathematics and Science Study Program endowed fund established in 2018 by Margharet, Frank, Bea '15, and William '17 Nash to support select students with demonstrated ability and interest in achieving true excellence within science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics in global competition preparation, and/or laboratory research experiences. If you are interested in further supporting this opportunity for students, please contact Director of Development Barb Drayer to discuss how your gift can help.