Teen scientist wins $2,50,000

Indrani Das worked on treating neurodegenerative disease and brain injury

March 16, 2017 10:33 pm | Updated March 17, 2017 10:17 am IST - Washington

(From left) Arjun Ramani, Indrani Das Aaron Yeiser at the Regeneron Science Talent Search awards gala.

(From left) Arjun Ramani, Indrani Das Aaron Yeiser at the Regeneron Science Talent Search awards gala.

Indian-American teenager Indrani Das won the top prize of $2,50,000 (Rs. 1.63 crore) in the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition in the U.S. for her research on treating brain injury and disease.

Ms. Das is a 17-year-old student living in New Jersey. Her work looked at boosting the survival rate of neurons. A contributor to neuron death is astrogliosis, a condition that occurs when cells called astrocytes react to injury by growing, dividing and reducing their uptake of glutamate, which in excess is toxic to neurons.

In a laboratory model, she showed that exosomes isolated from astrocytes transfected with microRNA-124a both improved astrocyte uptake of glutamate and increased neuron survival.

Another Indian-American teen, Arjun Ramani, took the third place, which carries a prize of $1,50,000, for his project on networks using mathematical field of graph theory and computer programming.

The second prize of $1,75,000 was bagged by Aaron Yeiser for his development of a mathematical method for solving partial differential equations on complicated geometries.

The talent search, nicknamed the ‘Junior Nobel Prize’, is the oldest U.S. science competition for students. It is organised by the Society for Science and the Public in association with medical firm Regeneron.

Indian-Americans shine

Of the 40 finalists of the science talent search, 13 were Indian-Americans.

Archana Verma took the fifth place award of $90,000 for research that could lead to the development of windows that could produce solar power.

Prathik Naidu ranked seventh place ($70,000) for a software to study human genomes and cancer, and Vrinda Madan got the ninth place award of $50,000 for her study of medications for malaria.

Society for Science the Public President Maya Ajmera said the finalists “are all poised to become our future scientific leaders”. More that 1,700 students took part in the contest.

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