2 Dutch Fork seniors named top national scholars; National Science competition delayed due to coronavirus

2 Dutch Fork seniors named top national scholars; National Science competition

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Two seniors from Dutch Fork High School are some of the top scholars in the country.

Lauren Chen and Caitlin Kunchur are finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search. Being a finalist landed each of them $25,000. It’s money they both say they will put towards college.

“I don’t think either of us were expecting this,” Chen said. “When we got the call it was definitely an exciting moment, and I am so glad to be representing South Carolina and Dutch Fork. We are so fortunate to grow up here.”

The two were supposed to compete for even more money in Washington D.C. the first week of March, but it has been postponed because of the latest coronavirus scare.

Here’s the official statement from the Society for Science & the Public and Regeneron:

“The Society for Science & the Public and Regeneron have made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Regeneron Science Talent Search (originally planned for March 5-11 in Washington, DC) until this summer out of an abundance of caution regarding COVID-19, and in order to prioritize the health and safety of everyone who attends our events. We are committed to ensuring that this year’s finalists have the best experience possible and are given the chance to compete in the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition. We are in communication with the finalists, their families and other attendees regarding the rescheduled event. We look forward to meeting the finalists this summer, where they will undergo project judging and compete for awards, in addition to having an opportunity to connect with one another, meet government officials and share their research with the public.”

Chen and Kunchur were selected from 1,993 entrants. Once they head to Washington D.C. -- hopefully this summer -- they will be competing for up to $250,000.

Here is a look at their independent research:

Lauren Chen, Dutch Fork High School

Project Title: Serum miR-134 predicts and potentially promotes breast cancer recurrence

Project Summary: Lauren determined that the presence of high levels of a particular microRNA molecule in the blood of post-treatment breast cancer patients could potentially provide an early warning of tumor recurrence and progression.

Caitlin Kunchur, Dutch Fork High School

Project Title: Evaluating Room Acoustics for Speech Intelligibility

Project Summary: Caitlin studied the physics of a room’s acoustical properties on speech intelligibility and sound. She measured three factors in three different rooms: a bathroom, foyer and bedroom. Her work has the potential to help inform acoustic designs for small areas like classrooms where speech intelligibility is paramount.

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