Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalist

U.S. Presidential Scholar Program candidate Holly Cheng is 1 of the only 40 finalists selected from 1,993 highly qualified entrants from across the United States competing for more than $1.8 million in awards as part of this year's virtual Regeneron Science Talent Search, a program of the Society for Science & the Public.

The finalists were selected based on their projects’ scientific rigor and their potential to become world-changing scientists and leaders.

Her project title: Modulating Fetal Globin Levels Using CRISPR/Cas9 in an in vitro Mouse Cellular System.

“This year’s finalists are part of the next generation of brilliant minds who – through the pursuit of science and innovation – can address many of society’s most urgent challenges and help improve our world,” said George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron and a Science Talent Search top winner (1976). “These students are joining a community of highly talented STS alumni who have gone on to make incredible contributions to their chosen fields and our society. If one, two or even a handful of these impressive young scholars make discoveries that impact our world, that could make all the difference.”

The virtual Public Exhibition of Projects is on Saturday, July 25 from 2-4 pm ET. Check out all 40 projects and chat with the finalists about their research. Visit www.societyforscience.org for more information and to sign up to receive competition alerts.

Then, tune in on July 29 from 8-9 p.m. ET to watch the Winners Award Ceremony. See who brings home the top $250,000 prize!

The Regeneron Science Talent Search, founded and produced by Society for Science & the Public, is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

Alumni of the Science Talent Search have gone on to have world-changing careers in science and earn more than 100 of the most esteemed science and math honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes, five Breakthrough Prizes, 21 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, two Fields Medals and 11 National Medals of Science.

Q&A with HOLLY CHENG

How/why did you choose your research topic?

Sickle cell disease is a textbook example of a genetic disorder. In my freshman biology class, I watched a documentary about a young girl who was unable to play because she had this disease. After obtaining an opportunity to work on finding a treatment, I was compelled to work harder for the children who cannot reach their full potential, and for the communities in which the birth of a child is a cause of fearful anticipation instead of joyous celebration.

Please explain your research...in a few sentences.

Sickle cell disease is caused by defective hemoglobin. We can treat this disease by increasing the expression of functional hemoglobin to replace the defective hemoglobin. My project aims to increase functional hemoglobin by removing specific regions on the mouse genome using CRISPR/Cas9.

What do you enjoy most about the Science Research class?

I’ve learned a lot of incredible things from my classmates. For example, on the first day of class, I walked in on a debate about the different Cas proteins, which acquainted me with the world of gene editing. The teachers are super supportive and make science research one of the best classes at Greeley. 

What else - clubs, organizations, teams and activities - are you involved in at Greeley?

I am part of the Science Olympiad team, Student Teacher Admin Council (Student Govt.), Chamber Orchestra, Cross Country, and Spring Track & Field. 

Your plans for life after Greeley?

I plan to go to college, explore biology and other fascinating disciplines, and continue to do research.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A biologist! I want to help decipher the endlessly complex rules of nature.