By CARLY ZHOU
Seniors Andrei Mandelshtam and Daniel Feng were selected as Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) Scholars, representing 300 high-school researchers selected out of an international pool of 1,760. Mandelshtam was also named a Regeneron STS Finalist, an even more select honor, representing the top 40.
Feng’s research paper, “Discovering Antibiotic Molecules in Ceanothus leucodermis and Enhancing and Quantifying Their Efficacy with a Novel Simulation-Aided Method”, spanned multiple years and focused on applications in antibiotics.
“I started in freshman year [when] I was able to identify the Native American herbs that had antibacterial properties,” said Feng. “The second year, I found the antibiotic molecules in this plant using mass spectrometry and column chromatography.” Feng also developed a computer simulation to aid in his research efforts.
Mandelshtam’s project, titled “The Structure of the Positive Monoid of Integer-Valued Polynomials Evaluated at α in Q”, answered a question in category theory, a subtopic in mathematics that has applications in quantum mechanics.
“I was investigating this algebraic structure and proved that it’s a ring,” said Mandelshtam. “And then I found some explicit structure, which may aid in further computation.” In mathematics, a ring is a set of numbers that you can multiply, add and subtract from.
“I knew that I might not ever solve the problem,” said Mandelshtam. “Some problems end up being unsolvable, especially in math, but I just kept working on it and never quit.”
Both students had received support from UHS staff, their mentors, and research institutions.
“I took Andrei to the state science fair two years ago, where I met him, and I could tell right away that he was something special,” UHS teacher Mr. Timothy Smay said. “I met Daniel this year and, similar to Andrei, I could tell early on that he had a gift for science…hearing that he has gone so far in Regeneron is no surprise.”
Feng had reached out to Professor Nancy Silva, and was able to use UCI facilities to conduct his research.
“While we provided a lab to perform the experimental aspects of his research, he chose his project and the strategies to pursue,” Silva said. “Daniel would meet with me periodically to present his current results and thoughts on future directions.”
Mandelshtam attended the Research Summer Institute (RSI), a summer research program hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and had been paired with graduate student mentor Daniil Kalinov, who initially introduced him to the problem that he later explored in the project.
“Andrei continued to show his exceptional aptitude for research through the whole time we worked on the problem…[and] I’m also very pleased with the results that we were able to obtain since Andrei was able to fully solve the problem I’ve posed [to] him,” Kalinov said. “The fact that he used both analytic and algebraic techniques in his proofs made it even more satisfying.”
Each student was awarded $2,000 for being named Scholars, and Mandelshtam an additional sum for being a Finalist. In recognition of their work, UHS also received $4,000, funds which are typically allocated towards buying science supplies.
In terms of their plans for the future, both awardees plan to pursue research in their respective areas of expertise.
“Basically, you could consider [my project] case closed, but I actually got much nicer expressions for specific numbers,” said Mandelshtam, “[What] could be interesting to consider, for example, other specific numbers alpha and see how a simplified form can be found.”
Mandelshtam expressed interest in continuing inquiry in the mathematics field, and is currently looking at more problems to research.
Feng is currently working on writing and submitting a manuscript for publication in an academic paper.
“I am interested in the applications of computer science,” said Feng. “I would like to pursue some more experimental fields, like biology or chemistry, whether it’s using artificial intelligence or computer modeling.”
Feng believes that the achievement will also reward him with a platform to showcase his talents, in addition to the grant money.
“I’m really honored to get this award… and hopefully I can use any publicity from this to tell more people about my work,” Feng said.