Exeter senior wins $90,000 in science competition

Neil Chowdhury ’22 earns a fifth-place finish in the nationwide Regeneron Science Talent Search.

March 28, 2022

In March, 40 finalists from around the country gathered in Washington D.C. for the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious high school science competition. When the dust cleared, Neil Chowdhury ’22, of Bellevue, Washington, was named the fifth-place winner and awarded a prize of $90,000 for his project, “Modeling the Effect of Histone Methylation on Chromosomal Organization in Colon Cancer Cells.”

The competition was held in person (under strict COVID-19 protocols) for the first time since 2019. After a week of presenting their research to the judges, touring Capitol Hill and attending panel discussions with leading scientists — not to mention a STEM scavenger hunt and game show night competition — the finalists donned their evening wear for a livestreamed award ceremony emceed by Saturday Night Live’s Melissa Villaseñor.

“I really loved meeting the other finalists in person after getting to know them online,” Chowdhury said. “I also enjoyed getting to meet some of the speakers we heard from, like Dr. Francis Collins, current science adviser to [President Joe Biden], and hearing about what's going on in the [STEM] field and what opportunities are available for us.” 

Also on hand to congratulate Chowdhury was Yunseo Choi ’21, who captured first place and $250,000 in the 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search for her project on matching theory.

Chowdhury, who launched his prize-winning research while participating in MIT PRIMES, the high school research program in mathematics, engineering and science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created a computer model to investigate how modification of a histone protein implicated in colon cancer caused changes in the physical structure of human DNA. His work with polymer simulation has broader implications for studying the 3D genome and giving scientists a window into the molecular processes that govern how our cells operate.