Society for Science has announced that Westminster Sixth Former Michelle Wu was among the top 300 scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. She will receive $2,000 and Westminster School will receive $2,000.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars were selected from 1,760 applications received from 611 high schools across 45 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 10 countries. Scholars were chosen based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists. They hail from 198 American and international high schools in 37 states, Puerto Rico, Chinese Taipei and Singapore.
Regeneron Science Talent Search requires applicants to submit an individual research paper, extensive written responses about their research procedures and their future aspirations as scientists and mathematicians, a list of extracurricular activities, transcripts, test scores and two recommendation letters (one from a school teacher and one from a research mentor). The title of the project Michelle submitted was “Biases in First and Second Moments of the Fourier Coefficients in One- and Two-Parameter Families of Elliptic Curves.”
“I am tremendously honored to be named a 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar,” said Michelle. “It feels like a recognition of my passion for mathematics and years of hard work in mathematical research. With this honor, I feel a great responsibility to more actively reach out to my community, especially to female and underrepresented students, to promote scientific and mathematical research. I also want to thank Westminster for providing a nurturing environment for intellectual discovery.”
Michelle began her research the summer after her Fourth Form year. “I conducted mathematics research on the group of rational solutions, or rank, of a type of cubic equations called elliptic curves, which are crucial to cryptography and the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem,” she explained. “The behavior of these curves remains a mystery to mathematicians. In my research, I confirmed my mentor’s conjecture on the property of rank in five new one-parameter families of elliptic curves and seven two-parameter families of elliptic curves, which had never been studied before. If the conjecture holds, then it helps us to understand one of the Millennium Prize Problems — the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture.”
Michelle is interested in number theory. “It is the area elliptic curves belong to,” she said. “I was drawn to elliptic curves when I first read about the mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles in Simon Singh’s ‘Fermat’s Enigma.’ Curious about Wiles’ investigation of these curves, I wanted to find out more about them and investigate some of their properties, which have defied mathematicians’ classification. I am also interested in topology and want to learn how objects in our daily life can be mathematically transformed and folded.”
At Westminster, Michelle has taken Linear Algebra with faculty member Peter Doucette and is currently taking an Independent Study in Mathematics with Head of the Mathematics Department Tony Griffith. She plans to pursue mathematics in college and hopes to not only find the solutions to equations but also to apply them to solve societal challenges such as pollution and gerrymandering.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides students with a national stage to present original research and celebrates the hard work and discoveries of young scientists who are bringing a fresh perspective to significant global challenges. This year, research projects cover topics from bioinformatics to public health and energy efficiency.
“The remarkable drive, creativity and intellectual curiosity that each one of these scholars possesses represents a hopeful outlook for our future and our collective well-being,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science, Publisher of Science News and 1985 Science Talent Search alumna. “At a time when many students’ educational experiences are being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am incredibly humbled to see gifted young scientists and engineers eager to contribute fresh insights to solving the world’s most intractable problems.”
Program alumni include recipients of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes, 11 National Medals of Science, six Breakthrough Prizes, 21 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and two Fields Medals.
On Jan. 21, 40 of the 300 scholars will be named Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists. From March 10-17 all 40 finalists will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards provided by Regeneron.