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Regeneron Science Talent Search: Everything You Need to Know

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Science technology concept. Studying asian girl

Regeneron Science Talent Search: Everything You Need to Know

Every year, around 2,000 participants at the Regeneron Science Talent Search compete for a sum of $3.1 million in prizes. The top award is $250,000—the largest single prize available in any U.S. science contest. This prestigious competition draws some of the brightest young minds in the nation.

In this article, you’ll learn what the Regeneron Science Talent Search is all about, how you can enter, and tips to make your application stand out. Whether you’re a budding scientist or just curious, this guide will provide you with all the essential details.

What Is the Regeneron Science Talent Search?

The Regeneron Science Talent Search is the oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors in the U.S. It kicked off back in 1942 and is run by the Society of Science. This competition is a big deal because it gives young scientists a chance to showcase their independent research in science, math, or engineering.

Man offer stem word sign on virtual screen.

How Prestigious Is the Regeneron Science Talent Search?

Well, let’s put it this way: its alumni are pretty impressive. They’ve snagged 13 Nobel Prizes, 11 National Medals of Science, and two Fields Medals. It’s clear that the Regeneron Science Talent Search plays a huge part in shaping the future leaders of the scientific world.

Where Does the Regeneron Science Talent Search Take Place?

Each year, from a pool of about 2,000 entries, the competition honors 300 student scholars and their schools. Then, it ramps up to the next level where 40 finalists are invited to Washington, D.C. There, they present their work publicly for the final round of judging by a national jury.

When Is the Regeneron Science Talent Search Held?

The Regeneron Science Talent Search usually happens in March. For the 2024 cycle, it was all set from March 6 to 13. The big days to note were the Public Exhibition of Projects on March 10 and the Awards Ceremony on March 12.

For the 2025 cycle, the application will start on June 1, 2024.

What Prizes Can You Win at the Regeneron Science Talent Search?

Participating in the Regeneron Science Talent Search offers you the chance to win various awards at different levels of the competition. Here’s a breakdown of what’s up for grabs:

  • Just by entering, you’ll score some cool items like an entrant T-shirt, laptop stickers, and a one-year subscription to Science News magazine. It’s a neat way to remember the experience.
  • Make it into the top 300 scholars, and you’ll pocket a $2,000 cash prize. Plus, your high school gets a matching $2,000 to pump up its science research resources. It’s a win-win, boosting both your recognition and your school’s capabilities.
  • If you advance to the top 40 finalists, you’re guaranteed at least a $25,000 scholarship. That’s a substantial chunk of change that can help with your college costs.
  • The prizes for the top 10 winners are even heftier, ranging from $40,000 to $250,000. The top prize? A life-changing $250,000. This can significantly support your educational and research ambitions.

But keep in mind, the Regeneron Science Talent Search is about more than just the money. It’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase your research skills, connect with other smart cookies, and get some well-deserved recognition for your scientific prowess. The experience itself is invaluable, offering you exposure, networking opportunities, and a platform to share your passion for science with the world.

Who Can Join the Regeneron Science Talent Search?

Thinking about entering the Regeneron Science Talent Search? Here are the eligibility requirements:

Age

First off, you must be at least 13 years old. If you’re under 18, you’ll need consent from a parent or guardian to apply and participate. Of course, if you’re 18 or older, or you’re an emancipated minor, you’re good to go on your own.

Citizenship

By the time the application deadline rolls around, you need to be living and studying in a secondary school full-time in places like the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Wake and Midway Islands, or the Marianas, regardless of your citizenship.

High school students building and programming electric toys and robots at robotics classroom

Or, if you’re a U.S. citizen in your final year of secondary school but studying abroad—maybe at a Department of Defense Dependents School, an accredited overseas American or International School, or as a foreign exchange student because your folks are working overseas—you’ll just need to show proof of your U.S. citizenship and that your school is accredited.

School status

You must be in your last year of secondary education, which could be at a public, private, parochial, charter, or home school. You should be wrapping up the courses you need for college applications and haven’t graduated before the application deadline hits. And a quick heads-up: if you’ve competed in the contest before, you can’t enter again.

How to Apply to the Regeneration Science Talent Search

Kicking off your application to the Regeneron Science Talent Search is all about familiarizing yourself with the main bits and pieces that showcase your academic and research skills:

  • Essays, short answers, activities, and basic info: This is your chance to shine. Talk about your interests, experiences, and what makes you, well, you. It’s the perfect spot to let your personality pop.
  • Scientific research report: You’ve got to hand in a detailed, up to 20-page research paper that spells out your original research project. Don’t forget to include any extra documents that help explain your work.
  • Recommendations and transcripts: These pieces come from educators who know you best and they highlight your academic achievements.
  • Test scores (optional): Throwing in standardized test scores might give your application a little extra boost, but it’s totally not a must.

More specifically, to ensure your application is considered, complete the following tasks carefully:

Step 1. Basic information

First off, verify you’re a high school senior eligible to apply. You’ll need to provide details like your high school’s name, address, website, and the courses you’re currently taking.

Step 2. Recommendation requests

You need to secure strong recommendations:

  • Educator recommendation: You can ask for up to two recommendations from educators who can vouch for your academic abilities and potential in the sciences.
  • Project recommendation: You can also snag up to two recommendations from folks who know your research inside out, like a lab head, professor, or research mentor.
  • High school report: This one’s for your school counselor or admin to fill out. They’ll provide your official transcript and a scoop on your academic standing.

Make sure all recommendations are submitted through the Regeneron online system, and check that you’re asking the right people as per the guidelines.

Step 3. Rules wizard

This step is super important because it’s all about making sure your research is up to snuff with ethical and compliance standards. You’ll answer some questions to figure out if your project involves stuff like live test subjects, human or animal tissue, and whether you need specific approvals or documentation like IRB approval, wildlife permits, or informed consent forms.

If you’re missing any documents, get on it ASAP by talking to your mentor or research director. Missing out on this could lead to disqualification. Keep digital copies of everything ready for a smooth upload process.

Step 4. Science research description

For this step, introduce your independent research project by filling in key details:

Marine Biologists holding a specimen.

  • Project category and theme: Identify the scientific field (e.g., plant sciences or bioengineering) and the research theme (e.g., robotics or climate change).
  • Project title: Choose a concise and descriptive title that gets straight to the point of what your project is about.
  • Research location: Name where your research was conducted, including the type of facility.
  • Research mentors: List any mentors you had, how you teamed up with them, and what role they played in your project.
  • Origin of idea: Describe how you came up with the idea for your project and the main research question you wanted to tackle.

This section really sets the stage for the judges, so make your answers count. Each response has a word limit, so aim for clarity, accuracy, and impact.

Step 5. Research report upload

Next, you’ll need to submit a detailed written report of your research. Here’s how to structure it:

  • Title page: Include your project’s title and your name (this part doesn’t count towards the page limit).
  • Abstract: Summarize project’s goals, methods, results, and conclusion (also not included in the page count).
  • Introduction: Provide some background info and explain why you started this research.
  • Experimental section: Get into the nitty-gritty of your methods and what you discovered.
  • Discussion: Talk about what your results mean and why they matter.
  • References: Round it all off with a bibliographic page listing the sources you cited (not included in the page count).

Keep your report to no more than 20 pages, typed up in Times New Roman, 11 pt. font, with 1.5 line spacing and 1-inch margins. Upload it through the Regeneron online portal and make sure it sticks to the format to avoid any hiccups.

Step 6. Previous research

Now, it’s time to lay out your scientific résumé. Detail your past and planned research activities, including both individual and team projects. Highlight any major discoveries or innovations. If you’ve ever presented your work at conferences or had it published, mention that too. Don’t forget to include your involvement in relevant summer programs or extracurricular activities, and give a peek at any ongoing or future projects you have on the horizon.

In this section, honesty really is the best policy. Share your true experiences and future plans to make a genuine impression and effectively showcase your scientific journey to the judges of the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Step 7. Essay questions

For this task, you’re going to tackle seven essay questions to dive deep into your research project and personal experiences. Here’s a friendly guide on how to nail each one:

  • Project summary: Start by giving a clear, simple explanation of your research. Cut the jargon and make it easy for anyone, even those outside your field, to get it.
  • Project inspiration: Talk about what got you started on this project. Maybe a personal experience or something you noticed that piqued your interest.
  • Impact and benefits: Chat about the good your research could do. How might it help society or shake things up in the scientific community?
  • Personal influence: Reflect on how this project has molded your interest in STEM.

a female student studying with her laptop and looking at the camera

  • Scientific potential: Throw in some examples from your project or school experiences that show why you’ve got what it takes to be a great scientist.
  • Addressing a scientific question: Lay out how you went about tackling a big question in your field.
  • Project tweet: Whip up a short, snappy tweet that sums up your project.

When you’re writing these essays, keep things clear and to the point. Structure your responses well and don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from mentors, teachers, and peers to polish your answers.

Step 8. Activities, interests, and awards

In this part of your application, list all your extracurriculars—volunteering, jobs, you name it. Highlight any leadership roles, how long you’ve been involved, and your commitment level to each. Make sure to mention any awards or recognitions you’ve earned along the way.

Also, share what you’ve been up to over the last three summers, like any science competitions or programs you’ve joined. This section is your chance to show off all sides of you, not just the brainy bits. The judges want to get to know the real you, so be honest and thorough when sharing your experiences.

Step 9. Test scores (optional)

This part of the application is all about your standardized test scores—think SAT, ACT, AP, and IB exams. Here’s the tip: only add your scores if they’re really going to shine. For example, if you knocked the ACT out of the park with a 34, definitely toss that in. But if you got something like a 17, you might want to skip it.

If you’ve taken the SAT or ACT more than once, you can mix and match your best scores from different test days to put your best foot forward. Decided to include them? Just upload copies of your score reports. No need for official ones; photocopies or printouts work just fine. And don’t stress—if you choose not to include your scores, it won’t hurt your application. After all, this section is totally optional.

Step 10. Beyond judging

This step doesn’t weigh in on the judging but is crucial if you move forward in the competition for all the admin and communication stuff. You’ll need to drop in detailed contact info for you, your family, and your school. That includes emails, phone numbers, and mailing addresses.

If you have one, add your school newspaper’s contact details too. It could come in handy for press releases or announcements, especially if you snag a Scholar or Finalist spot. Just double-check that all the information is accurate and current—it’s important for record-keeping and communication.

How to Stand Out in the Regeneron Science Talent Search

Here’s what you need to know about the selection process: your project gets reviewed by at least three experts—doctoral scientists, mathematicians, and/or engineers—who specialize in your project’s field. They check for originality using plagiarism software and make sure you’re following the rules, especially concerning research involving animals and humans.

Two students talking on a table.

Now, let’s dive into the four key criteria you should focus on to really shine:

1. Research report and scientific merit

You want your research report to be super clear and structured so it’s easy for the judges to follow your methods, results, and conclusions. Really push the unique points of your work—what new ideas are you bringing to the table or what existing problems are you solving?

Keep your scientific methods tight and your details sharp. And don’t forget a solid list of references—it’s crucial for showing off the depth of your research and your commitment to playing by the academic rules.

2. Student contribution to the research

It’s all about independence here. Make it clear which parts of the research you did on your own, especially if you were part of a team or had some guidance. If you hit any bumps along the way, explain how you tackled them—this is your chance to highlight your problem-solving skills and independence.

And if you came up with any cool new methods or tools, give those a shout-out too. It’s all about showing you can think outside the box.

3. Academic aptitude and achievement

Throw in a transcript that shows you excel at STEM subjects. If you’re sharing your standardized test scores, make sure they’re top-notch. Also, brag a little about any awards or recognitions you’ve snagged along the way. These are gold for proving your dedication and success in the science world.

4. Overall potential as a future leader of the scientific community

Talk about your big science dreams—how do you want to shape the future of research or tackle the big challenges out there? Share stories of how you’ve inspired others in science, maybe through clubs, leadership roles, or community outreach. It’s about showing you’re not just about the lab—you’re ready to lead and lift others up in science too.

Regeneron Science Talent Search Winning Projects

Looking into what past winners did can really help you get a leg up in the Regeneron Science Talent Search. Let’s take a peek at the 2024 cycle’s top three:

Top 1: Achyuta Rajaram

Topic: visual circuits in machine learning

Rajaram came up with a slick automated method to figure out which parts of machine learning algorithms fire up when they analyze images. This cool innovation sheds light on how AI “thinks.” His work doesn’t just boost AI’s performance; it also makes these systems fairer and safer, tackling some hefty ethical and operational tech challenges head-on. By picking apart how AI makes decisions, Achyuta helped make these systems clearer and more trustworthy.

Top 2: Thomas Yu-Tong Cong

Topic: metabolic variation in cancers

He questioned the usual belief that gene expression alone controls metabolic processes in immune cancers. His findings hinted at a more complex scenario, which really shakes up the old-school views in cancer research. Thomas’s research is super relevant for cancer treatment because it offers fresh insights into how metabolic pathways influence cancer cell growth. His fearless questioning of the norm led to some groundbreaking discoveries.

Medical Research Laboratory

Top 3: Michelle Wei

Topic: optimization in convex programming

Wei focused on speeding up the solving of second-order cone programming problems. Her optimization methods have real-world uses in industries like logistics, energy, and transportation, making these operations run smoother and faster. Michelle’s knack for advancing mathematical methods really shows off her technical chops and her potential as a future math whiz.

Conclusion

When you’re brainstorming your project, aim for the kind of innovation and real-world impact these champs demonstrated. Don’t be shy about challenging established theories or practices—new angles can lead to major breakthroughs. Make sure to highlight your unique contributions to the research, especially any cool discoveries or innovations.

And get ready to break down your project in simple terms, so even folks outside your field can get what you’re doing. By embracing these approaches, you’ll boost your odds of making a standout impression in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, proving yourself as a creative, impactful young scientist.

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