By Ethan Duran
On January 23, 17-year-old Aayush Karan was named as one of the top 40 finalists for the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a nationwide math and science competition for high school seniors. Karan will attend the final Talent Search competition in Washington DC this March, where his research and work will be scrutinized by PhD scientists and engineers. On top of winning $25,000 and exploring internship opportunities, Karan will be able to compete with other high school seniors for $1.8 million in prizes.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search was founded by the Society for Science & The Public and is known as the oldest science competition in the United States for high school students. According to a press release from the Society, the Talent Search selected 300 scholars out of almost 2,000 students from across and outside the country. At the DC ceremony in March, the finalists will get to meet industry experts, members of Congress and show their projects to the National Geographic Society.
As a student at the University School of Milwaukee, Karan said, “It is super exciting to have my research recognized by a super prestigious program.” He said his parents are excited as well.
Karan’s 22-page research paper revisited a problem on knot theory from 30 years ago under a new lens.
“Generating Set for Nonzero Determinant Links Under Skein Relation” took a 30-year-old topology problem and used algebra to solve the problem mathematically. Knot theory can be applied to practical problems, like observing DNA structures. The theory also heavily uses geometry, which is Karan’s favorite subject.
When he applied to PRIMES, an MIT after-school research program for high school students, Karan included that he wanted to do a high-level project on geometry. “I like challenging problems,” he said. “I like problems that challenge my way of thinking,”
The PRIMES-USA program is a free, year-long research section for high school students across the country. Jianfeng Lin, Karan’s mentor, has worked as a C.L.E. Moore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2016. Lin said that his area of interest in mathematics is topology, and that Karan was also interested in topology when he was admitted into the program. Naturally, the two became mentor and mentee.
Lin also mentioned that the program is very selective, and that a small number of candidates with advanced backgrounds are selected for PRIMES.