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SHS Senior Maureen Zhang Named a Top 300 Science Scholar

Maureen with telescope

Congratulations to Sutherland High School student Maureen Zhang for being named a Top 300 Scholar in the 83rd Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. She was among 2,162 applicants from 712 high schools across 46 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and ten other countries.

As a Top 300 Regeneron Scholar, Zhang will be awarded $2,000, and Sutherland High School will receive another $2,000 to use toward STEM-related activities

Zhang’s research project centered on improving the accuracy of identifying exoplanets. In her research, Zhang found that manual techniques for confirming the existence of exoplanets frequently result in false positives and missed exoplanet candidates due to detection biases that routinely overlook certain types of exoplanets. In her search to improve detection accuracy, she explored automating exoplanet confirmation. Using machine learning, she examined entire planetary systems to determine how many exoplanets existed in each system. She then re-classified existing exoplanet data to reflect the likely number of exoplanets in any given planetary system and used supervised machine learning methods to make predictions on the re-classified data. These clustering methods resulted in relatively high accuracies and demonstrated promising potential for detecting previously unknown exoplanets in known planetary systems. Her project also helped shed light on characteristics shared by planetary systems containing the same number of exoplanets.

“I'm really grateful to be a student in PCSD. All the support I've received from teachers, administrators, and other mentors over the years has been essential to inspiring my interest in science and helping me realize my dream of pursuing science research,” said Zhang, adding that she is also grateful for the additional funding SHS will be awarded to support STEM programs and potential future Regeneron Scholars.

Regeneron Science Talent Search applicants are evaluated on a number of factors, including an original, independent research project, academic performance, and recommendations from an educator and project advisor.