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New Jersey Teen Jagdeep Bhatia Wins 2nd Place in Prestigious STEM Competition

New Jersey Teen Jagdeep Bhatia Wins 2nd Place in Prestigious STEM Competition

Staff Writer
  • Two other Indian Americans, Rohan Wagh of Portland, Oregon and Arjun Neervannan of Irvine, California, are among top 10 winners.

New Jersey teenager Jagdeep Bhatia has won second place in Regeneron Science Talent Search 2020, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Bhatia, 18, won $175,000 “for developing two fast and simple machine learning algorithms for computer programs that are attempting to learn new concepts under the tutelage of an instructor, either a computer or human.” His AI algorithms could help train robots and other automated devices faster and easier, according to a Regeneron press release. 

Two other Indian Americans were among the top 10 winners. Rohan Wagh of Portland, Oregon, was placed ninth, and the tenth place went to Arjun Neervannan of Irvine, California.

Bhatia, Wagh and Neervannan were among 40 finalists who were honored on July 29, during a virtual award ceremony. “Finalists were evaluated based on the scientific rigor of their projects, their exceptional problem-solving abilities and their potential to become scientific leaders,” the Regeneron press release said.

Lillian Kay Petersen, 17, of Los Alamos, New Mexico won the $250,000 top award for a simple tool for predicting harvests early in the growing season, and third place went to Brendan Crotty, 18, of Muskogee, Oklahoma for his efficient hybrid gas burner that could help reduce the ecological impact of industries like power generation and materials manufacturing.

“Congratulations to the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2020 winners,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science & the Public. “Students like Lillian Petersen are the stewards of our future. The current pandemic has made it clear how important science is to our wellbeing. With these finalists at the forefront of scientific and engineering discovery, I know we are in good hands. They will be solving the world’s most intractable problems.”

Bhatia, a rising freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduated this spring from Watchung Hills Regional High School. Bhatia told Tap Into Warren that he plans to apply the Regeneron prize money toward his continuing education. He told the paper that he plans to major in Computer Science in college, and “perhaps later pursue a Ph.D or a more entrepreneurial tract.” 

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At high school, Bhatia was president of the Computer Science Club, which has included, among other things, helping to organize and stage the WHRHS “HillsHacks” Hackathons the last two years. In addition, Bhatia was president of the WHRHS Math Team, and a four-year athlete on the WHRHS Cross Country Team. At the annual Senior Awards Ceremony for the Class of 2020, held virtually in June, Bhatia was recognized for winning the Class of 2020 “Excellence in Mathematics and Computer Science Award.”

Wagh received a $50,000 award for his development of a bacteria-powered sensor system that can send farmers up-to-date measurements of soil moisture and nutrient conditions, which could reduce the amount of irrigation water wasted. Neervannan, who developed an AI software designed to identify hateful or toxic content, often a form of cyberbullying, online with less bias than current programs, received a $40,000 award. 

The remaining 30 finalists each received $25,000. These students will join the ranks of other Science Talent Search alumni, many of whom have gone on to have world-changing careers in STEM fields, and some of whom have earned the most esteemed honors in science and math, including the Nobel Prize, National Medal of Science and MacArthur Foundation Fellowships.

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