Two Dallas area high school students have been awarded scholarships by the University of North Texas at Dallas (UNT Dallas) after outstanding performances in a recent global STEM-related event.
Shriya Bhat, who recently graduated from Plano East Senior High School, and Rohan Jagarlamudi, who is entering his senior year at the Alcuin School in Dallas, were among nearly 2,000 high school students from across the country and around the world who participated in the 2023 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Dallas on May 13-19. It is the world’s largest pre-college STEM competition.
If they attend UNT Dallas, Baht and Jagarlamudi will each receive a $2,500 scholarship. The scholarships are renewable for up to four years (eight semesters) or the completion of their first baccalaureate degree.
“Very impressive,” said Dr. Keriman Livingston, UNT Dallas science lecturer and ISEF judge, praising the work of both students. “She did a master’s level project. It will produce a well-respected scientific publication,” Livingston said, referring to Baht. Of Jagarlamudi, Livingston said, “His scientific research on human microbiome to treat the two most common metabolic diseases is valuable and notable.”
Both students competed in the microbiology category and were motivated by sick relatives. They shared similar goals of treating or preventing different infections and illnesses.
Baht’s project aimed to develop a drug cocktail to fight a type of infection, known as Pseudomonas, that kills more than 100,000 people every year. Baht’s cousin died from it, which inspired her to search for a new treatment. Her research zeroed in on the infection’s resistance to antibiotics and the creation of a safe and effective drug cocktail to override the resistance.
Jagarlamudi’s project focused on devising a personalized probiotic to prevent or alleviate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and related gastrointestinal ailments, and Type-II diabetes. He has a cousin with Crohn’s disease and has seen their struggle firsthand. Jagarlamudi based his research on the human gut microbiome, which is unique to each person, and proposed a specialized method of treatment with probiotic microorganisms.
Their research questions, data analysis, methodology, interpretation and conclusions were incredibly thorough and detailed. Each included a chart to help visualize their processes and results. See Baht’s here and Jagarlamudi’s here.
“UNT Dallas’ presence at the 2023 ISEF shows our commitment to high academic standards, quality research and STEM education,” said Dr. Orlando Perez, Dean of the UNT Dallas School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The next step in that commitment is the groundbreaking for a new $100 million STEM building on the UNT Dallas campus, scheduled for August 2023. The building is expected to be completed in 2025. Also, the university has added an innovative program to the Fall 2023 semester that will develop K-12 educators who want to become principals of STEM schools.
The university’s participation in the 2023 ISEF was truly a team effort. In addition to honoring the individual achievements of Baht and Jagarlamudi, UNT Dallas science lecturers, Dr. Keriman Livingston and Dr. Mehdi Eslamieh, served as award judges for the entire competition, reviewing thousands of entrants. UNT Dallas assistant professor of chemistry, Dr. Muhammed Yousufuddin, coordinated the process. Amber Khan, program manager of the UNT Dallas STEM Center, made the university’s initial contact with ISEF organizers.
Additional support and resources were provided by Dr. Perez, Dr. Monica Williams, UNT Dallas Vice President for University Advancement and President of the UNT Dallas Foundation, Dr. Jose da Silva, UNT Dallas Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, and Garrick Hildebrand, UNT Dallas Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
Regeneron ISEF provides an annual forum for top young scientific minds in grades 9–12 from nearly every state in the U.S. and about 70 countries, regions and territories to showcase their talent on an international stage. The students compete for more than $9 million in awards and are judged by doctoral-level scientists.
Each year, millions of students worldwide compete in science fairs; winners go on to participate in more than 425 Society for Science-affiliated fairs from which the best win the opportunity to attend ISEF. It was held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas this year. Approximately 500 North Texas high school students attended, making this a valuable stage for their hard work and a beneficial source of pride and inspiration for their future STEM careers.