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HHS senior Venkatesan named top 300 student researcher

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Education, Featured: Education

Srilakshmi Venkatesan, a senior at Hopkinton High School, recently was named a top 300 student researcher in the national Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Venkatesan and HHS each were awarded $2,000.

The Regeneron Science Talent Search is the oldest science and math competition for high school seniors. It provides students a national stage to present original research and celebrates their efforts and discoveries in support of global challenges.

Venkatesan and the students in the top 300 were chosen from 2,162 applications received from 712 high schools across 46 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and 10 other countries.

Her project, titled “Utilizing Hypermagnesemia to Understand the Impact of Neuromuscular Blocking Agents on Caenorhabditis Elegans: A Safe Novel Model for Paralytic Drug Testing,” built upon previous research that earned Venkatesan a third-place finish at last year’s state science fair.

Srilakshmi Venkatesan

Srilakshmi Venkatesan

She said her interest in neuromuscular paralysis was inspired by her grandfather’s experience.

The project’s challenge was to test the neuromuscular agents and then reverse them, not using a vertebrae model but identifying and using an invertebrate one instead. In this case, it was caenorhabditis elegans, microscopic worms.

“It’s powerful and important research,” said HHS teacher Marjorie Billeter, adviser for HOSA-Future Health Professionals and the Neuroscience Club.

Venkatesan is co-president for both those student groups and founder of the latter.

She and her adviser acknowledged that there are a lot of places where this research may be applied to humans in the future.

“It is quite an honor for Sri to be in this group [of 300] doing exceptional work,” said Billeter.

Billeter said she is not surprised that the student’s work was recognized in this way.

“Since freshman year, she has been tremendous,” Billeter said. “Sri has been very active in learning how the brain functions and how the brain and body are connected.”

She added, “The scope and magnitude, the quality and caliber of [research] work she did” was rightfully acknowledged.

Venkatesan noted that she sent a huge portfolio of essays, prompts and research papers on her topic to Regeneron, independent of any school groups.

In addition to the cash award, she received merchandise, a top 300 certificate and “access to a huge alumni network.”

She said she is grateful to “the faculty and community members for having such a robust science fair at school.”

She praised the mentorship of science teacher Kristen Murphy, noting that she shows students the “risk ability” or research and allowed her to grow and build upon hers over time.

She also thanked science teacher Jennifer Smith for being “so, so helpful.”

Venkatesan “definitely” hopes to pursue a career in health care.

“I’m really into neuroscience,” she said.

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