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Senior Yuqiao Z. Named Semifinalist in Regeneron Science Talent Search

We are proud to announce that the 81st Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) has named Prep School senior and Advanced Science Research (ASR) student Yuqiao Z. as one of its top 300 scholars. Regeneron STS, formerly known as Westinghouse STS and Intel STS, is the nation's oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics research competition for high school seniors. 1,805 seniors from around the US submitted their research projects to the STS this year, including Yuqiao and three others from Columbia Prep's ASR program: Raihana R., Akshay S. and Siyang W. Each application itself was a feat of dedication and rigor. "Just having something that meets the very rigorous standards of the STS is already a high achievement itself," says ASR teacher Ilya Yashin. Applicants compete for the distinction of being named semifinalists and finalists and for a total of $3.1 million in prizes. As one of the top 300 STS semifinalists or scholars, Yuqiao will receive $2,000, and CGPS will receive $2,000 to use toward STEM-related activities. 
 
Yuqiao's research project focuses on identifying enzymes called protein methyltransferases, which catalyze a reaction known as methylation. "This process plays a key role in transcription regulation, with dysregulations often leading to the emergence of cancer," Yuqiao explains. "Therefore, it is important to identify the methyltransferase enzymes that regulate the process of methylation in order to have a better understanding of the mechanisms behind these disorders." In addition to completing a comprehensive research paper for his STS application, Yuqiao had to write several essays and submit recommendations from Mr. Yashin and his mentor, Dr. Minkui Luo of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "The reason the STS asks for so many things besides the project itself is that they're not looking for just the best research project; they're looking for the best overall young scientist," remarks Mr. Yashin.
 
One of the essay questions asked applicants to discuss what inspires them as scientists. Yuqiao, always curious about the world around him, values the opportunity the field affords him to discover new knowledge. He states, "I get to explore something new, something that I can't just type into Google and find the answer for. Learning more about the world through my own actions rather than through something that someone else has done gives me a sense of achievement." 
 
This mindset resonates with ASR, as its inquisitive students conduct original research from sophomore through senior year. The emerging scientists learn how to develop an idea for a research project, analyze peer-reviewed journal articles, craft cohesive scientific writing, communicate with professionals in the scientific community and more. "Without all these more fundamental preparations, I wouldn't be where I am today," says Yuqiao, who joined ASR as a sophomore when it launched in 2019 and is part of the first class to complete all three years of the program. "ASR provides students with the necessary tools to engage with the scientific world."
 
Yuqiao, still surprised after hearing last week's news, is pleased to have received such notable recognition from the STS. "I'm definitely happy that I qualified," he says. Mr. Yashin is also thrilled to see Yuqiao recognized for his hard work, citing his achievement as a testament to the success of ASR. "Yuqiao 100% deserves this. . . . To have a member of the original sophomore class receive this distinction feels very heartwarming for the program as a whole," he says. As an experienced member of ASR, Yuqiao has some words of wisdom to impart to younger CGPS students aspiring to join the program someday. "Getting to where I am is not about how smart or talented you are. It comes down to the amount of effort you put in," he says. "With enough effort and the right resources, you can be where I am today."
 
The announcement of 40 STS finalists will take place on January 20 at 12 p.m. Eastern. Finalists will each receive $25,000 and participate in a week-long competition in March. Finalists will share their research with the public, participate in judging, meet top scientists and form relationships with one another as they compete for more than $1.8 million, including the first-place prize of $250,000.

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