William Gao, mentee of UMBC statistician Yi Huang, named finalist in Regeneron Talent Search

Published: Mar 5, 2024

student in bright orange hoodie sits at desk in classroom next to laptop with research slides on screen
“In the future, I plan to pursue a career that bridges my interests in technological innovation, research, and policy," William Gao says. "Wherever I land, I hope to emulate Dr. Huang's passion as a mentor and pay it forward.” (Image by Howard County Public School System)

William Gao, a senior at Centennial High School in Howard County, Maryland, has been selected as one of 40 finalists in the 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search. Yi Huang, associate professor of mathematics and statistics, has served as his research mentor for the past three years.

The Regeneron competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious youth science competitions in the country, and past finalists now include 13 Nobel Prize winners and 22 MacArthur Fellows. Judges select finalists whose projects demonstrate scientific rigor and who they believe have the potential to become world-changing scientific leaders. The 2024 finalists were selected from among nearly 2,000 entrants nationwide, and each received $25,000 to be used for their education. 

Gao and Huang’s research led to the development of a mobile diagnostic system to identify cancerous regions in tumor samples, which they hope will eventually benefit patients in remote areas. The system applies modern data science technology, including artificial intelligence, to a prominent healthcare challenge. The findings were published in Cancer Informatics.

“I am beyond humbled and grateful to be a finalist in Regeneron’s Science Talent Search this year. I have always loved all things science and technology, and I have felt enormously lucky to grow as a young researcher under the guidance of Dr. Yi Huang,” Gao shares. “In the future, I plan to pursue a career that bridges my interests in technological innovation, research, and policy. Wherever I land, I hope to emulate Dr. Huang’s passion as a mentor and pay it forward.”

The finalists will participate in a week-long competition in March in Washington, D.C., where they will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards. The comprehensive judging process will not only test the students’ knowledge of their own projects, but also the depth of their understanding across multiple scientific disciplines.

“Serving the community and helping talented minds from various backgrounds get a boost from research early on has always been a core part of my career in education,” Huang says. “Since the start of his research journey in 2020, William has not only shown an impressive intellectual curiosity and resilience, and maturity in dealing with research challenges, but has also demonstrated exceptional initiative and independence. What sets William apart is his ability to bridge technological innovation with real-world problem solving, always considering the ethical and humanistic implications and the broad social impact of his research in the healthcare system.”

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