King student Ben Persily ’23, placed fourth at the Connecticut Science & Engineering Fair (CSEF) in March for his research using stem cells and prime editing to study and correct the genetic mutations that cause cystic fibrosis. Ben’s accomplishment put him on the podium, standing out from over 600 students who participated in the state-wide fair. The success also meant that a student from King School would represent the Connecticut delegation at the International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) for the first time.
After a quick Mother’s Day Brunch with his mother, Ben was off to the airport on Sunday, May 8, to participate in the week-long series of activities for the ISEF competition, culminating in an awards ceremony on Friday, May 13. At the ceremony, Ben was awarded third place in the Cell and Molecular Biology Category for his project, a prime editing tool that rivals the Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR editing system.
“At first I didn't really understand what was going on, but when I realized what was happening, my heart started pumping super fast as my friends were roaring; I was the first person from the Connecticut delegation to win an award! In a word, I was excited,” said Ben. In total, five of the seven delegates from Connecticut earned awards at the ceremony, highlighting the incredible rigor of science coming from the state at the high school level.
Ben conducted his research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City under the direction of lab head Dr. Ting Zhou in the Stem Cell Facility. He was also mentored on his written and oral presentation skills by King’s own Director of Science Research, Dr. Victoria Schulman.
“I was not able to be present to support Ben in person so I was ecstatic to receive a phone call with the news! I never expected our students to make it to ISEF so early in the program’s infancy, let alone make the podium, so I was utterly elated. I could not be more proud of these students. They never cease to amaze me,” said Schulman.
Ben became the first junior at King School to receive a STEM distinction for his performance in the state, national, and international competitions this year. He also won the Top ASPIRE Award and the ASPIRE-ing Scientist Award for the 2022 King Upper School Science Fair.
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 laboratory research experiences. If you are interested in further supporting this opportunity for students, please contact the Development Office to discuss how your gift can help.