Senior wins prestigious science award

Riju Dey, senior was named a top Regenron Talent by the Society for Science. (courtesy Shorewood School District)

Riju Dey, senior, was recently selected as a top 300 finisher in the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS). The STS, a program of the Society for Science, conducts a search of original scientific research from high school seniors. Established in 1942, the Regeneron STS recognizes the best and brightest young scientists for demonstrating exceptional scientific leadership potential. It is considered to be the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competition. Dey was delighted to receive recognition for his work.

“I think it’s very nice,” Dey said. “I think it’s good to inspire other people to try and do that.”

His research surrounds the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. This bacteria infects approximately 50,000 patients a year, primarily hospital patients and those who work in healthcare environments. Infections are common post-surgery and can cause a variety of serious symptoms in immunocompromised individuals.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa… is pretty bad. It infects a lot of people,” Dey said. “It’s a hospital acquired infection, so people get it when they’re already sick, and so that’s very bad and it’s very drug resistant. So it’s kind of hard to treat.”

Dey analyzed the function of a protein in the bacteria that, with further research, could help to produce pharmaceuticals to help treat infection from this bacteria.

“I looked at very small interactions between proteins… My research was on a protein that probably had never been studied before. It functions within a cell… If you could block that protein or inhibit it, you could probably make a new drug.”

As a part of the competition, Dey is receiving a 2,000 dollar scholarship, and Shorewood High School also receives 2,000 dollars. Dey plans to invest his money in the stock-market, and he hopes that the school district spends their 2,000 dollars to help Science Club.

Dey first started science research projects in middle school, when he participated in a science fair per the encouragement of Sam Nadolsky, middle school math teacher and former advanced learning coordinator. His research centered on fake news, where Dey presented a fake article and a real one to guided study classes and asked them to determine the accurate source. Today, he works with Professor Sonia Bardy, in her lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I got the opportunity to work with Dr. Bardy who worked with Pseudomonas aeruginosa; I wanted to do a project like that, it made sense. So I just looked for proteins and I found this one…in the lab, I learned how to do genome analysis and proton analysis for analyzing the genomes of Pseudomonas, and how the proteins are produced…I also learned the wet lab techniques.”

The Regeneron STS is not the only scientific award that Dey has won. Dey placed first in the biology category and was an overall finalist in the Badger State Science and Engineering Fair, received second place and a 8,000 dollar scholarship in the National Junior Science & Humanities Symposium and received a special award from the Office of Naval Research.

Dey hopes to use all of his scientific research and knowledge to help him in his future endeavors. Dey plans to major in biomedical engineering and possibly work in academia to continue his research. He is especially interested in bio-technology and medical capsule robots. Soon, Dey is interested in becoming a Regeneron intern. 

“I want to keep pursuing science and help people wherever I go.”