Chris Hennessy

Four Berkshire Advanced Math/Science Research program (AMSR) students have submitted their work to the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS). The STS is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science competition for high school seniors. Students submitting their work have gone on to earn the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science.

Clockwise from top: Max Guryan '24, Katherine Fisher '24, Logan Tao '24, Daphne Szakats '24

The students who submitted their work to the competition join a rich tradition of recent Berkshire graduates. When the semifinalists for the award are announced in January, seniors Daphne Szakats, Max Guryan, Katherine Fisher, and Logan Tao will look to join the 11 previous Berkshire semifinalists.

Szakats ’24’s inspiration for her project is personal. “When I was 10, I was diagnosed with vitiligo. Although vitiligo is a relatively common skin condition, its cause is unknown and no approved treatment or cure has been developed. When applying to the AMSR program during the spring of my sophomore year, I knew that I wanted to study vitiligo,” she said.

Guryan ’24 has worked closely with his mentor, Dr. Daniel Arango of Northwestern University, to research cancer. “I spent the summer working in his lab, conducting the experiments that are a part of my research project,” Guryan said. “Spending time with Dr. Arango, and the rest of his lab members, has shown me that if you are passionate and curious about something, you can follow that passion and make it your life’s work.”

Guryan settled on cancer research after a close friend beat cancer, while the pandemic added another level to his research. His interest in the RNA vaccine led him to connect RNA to ovarian cancer research. 

The AMSR Program led by Dr. April Burch and the state-of-the-art laboratory in the Morgan-Bellas-Dixon Math and Science Center influenced Fisher '24's decision to come to Berkshire.

"AMSR definitely played a role in my decision to attend Berkshire my freshman year. The opportunity to do self-guided and in-depth research with such high-tech equipment was unmatched anywhere else,” Fisher shared.

Tao ’24 took a different approach, finding his inspiration in, of all things, dessert.

I was reading about how the sales of whipped cream chargers or refillers were banned in New York state to people under 21,” he recalled.

This piqued my curiosity as I could not think of a reason why something so harmless was being treated like a controlled substance. I did some more reading and found out that the gas in those chargers, nitrous oxide, was none other than laughing gas. I understood that drugs were often used as a coping mechanism for stress in the lives of teenagers, so I set out to uncover the potential harmful effects of nitrous oxide and shed light on it to the public.”

Logan set out to prove his hypothesis using fruit flies. He put the flies in an environment with nitrus oxide present and observed that the gas is harmful to them.

300 Regeneron Scholars will be selected on January 10, 2024. The competition awards more than $3 million in prize money.

You can read each of the student’s projects in Dr. Burch’s Winter Newsletter.