Jesuit Students Shine at International Science and Engineering Fair

Jesuit Students Shine at International Science and Engineering Fair

On May 17, five Jesuit students attended the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles. These young scientists qualified for ISEF by competing in the regional fair, GBSE, and the state fair, NWSE. ISEF hosted nearly 2,000 high school students from 49 US states and almost 70 countries. Qualifying for ISEF is a huge accomplishment on its own, but three Jesuit students also took home awards in their categories! 

Congratulations to Siddharth D'Costa ’25 and Arjun Malpani (student partner from Sunset High School) for their first place win in the Chemistry category! Siddharth and Arjun’s project, “Synthesis and Characterization of Property-Optimized Ionic Liquid for Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Discovered via Novel Deep Learning Model,” focused ondesigning and synthesizing a new molecule that can efficiently and sustainably capture carbon dioxide from power plant emissions streams.” 

Another big congratulations to Anay Aggarwal ’26 and Manu Isaacs ’26, whose project, “An Elementary Method for Fast Modular Exponentiation With Factored Modulus,” won the second place award in the Mathematics category! Anay and Manu created an algorithm that can be used to provide secure data transmission.

“This is the second year in a row that we’ve had over 20 students participate in the science fair and the third year in a row that we’ve sent a large number of students to ISEF,” said Dr. Lara Shamieh, Director of Student Science Research and biology teacher at Jesuit High School. “I’m pleased with how our program has grown over the years. It is a place for any student who is curious about the world and wants to investigate a little deeper. This year, our projects ranged from social science to biochemistry to math. The projects integrated the students’ deep curiosity, creativity, and scientific prowess.  I’m so proud of all our science fair students, particularly those who made it to ISEF. Their work is going to change the world for the better – they truly are women and men for and with others.” 

Read on to hear from the students about the research projects they presented, their experiences at ISEF, and their future aspirations.

Siddharth D'Costa ’25, “Synthesis and Characterization of Property-Optimized Ionic Liquid for Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Discovered via Novel Deep Learning Model”

My project was about designing and synthesizing a new molecule that can efficiently and sustainably capture carbon dioxide from power plant emissions streams. To do this, we developed a new kind of AI model that generates chemical structures with certain properties ideal for the carbon dioxide capture process. We then took an optimal structure and found a way to create it in the lab, test its properties, and prove its ability to perform well for carbon dioxide capture.

The ISEF experience was a lot of fun because you get to meet super intelligent people from around the world and also spend time with your friends in a new city. Universal Studios was also a great memory.

I plan on continuing my research. I hope to test a few more properties and then try to actually implement our molecule in real power plants. My future aspirations are to do medical research or become a doctor.

Anay Aggarwal ’26 and Manu Isaacs ’26, “An Elementary Method for Fast Modular Exponentiation With Factored Modulus”

When you send a text or an email to your friend, the contents of the message get encrypted so that a hacker can’t recover them. Your friend’s device then decrypts this message so they can view it. A very common method for encryption and decryption is called modular exponentiation, and it involves finding the remainder when a power (like 7 to the power of 10, for example) is divided by a number called the modulus. We have a fast algorithm to do this when we know the numbers that divide the modulus. In turn, we provide for more secure data transmission.

We very much enjoyed the ISEF experience. Not only the high-quality food and a free trip to Universal Studios (without waiting in lines!), but also the opportunity to meet with other young scientists from around the globe and learn about an incredible variety of projects. The connections we made at the event are priceless.

We plan to continue our research. We hope to publish our work in a journal, and potentially get our algorithm implemented in real-life systems. Aside from our project, Anay is currently doing pure math research with the MIT PRIMES-USA program and plans to pursue mathematical research as a career. Manu is doing physics research and is interested in pursuing both math and physics.

Shriya Pai ’26, “Identification of Novel Target Genes and ML-based Drug Repurposing and Discovery for Alzheimer’s Disease in the Presence of Metabolic Comorbidities”

My project addressed finding viable treatment options for Alzheimer's disease in the presence of certain metabolic and cardiovascular conditions. I was curious to understand the impact these comorbidities have on the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD). I proposed a drug repurposing AI/Ml tool, based on medications taken for these comorbidities, that would slow down the progression of cognitive decline in patients with AD. I also performed differential gene expression to identify target genes involved in these pathways. I then completed drug discovery and various simulations to create new drug-like molecules that could potentially become drugs to treat AD.

My experience at ISEF was incredible. I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful judges, panelists, and many other like-minded finalists. I got to learn so much about building a STEM-based career through panels, workshops, and various symposia. My favorite part of ISEF was the pin exchange, where we introduced ourselves to other finalists from across the world, exchanging our “Team OR” pins for their country or state-based pins. I enjoyed talking with students from other countries and states and making new friends and connections. Of course, one other highlight of my week at ISEF was visiting Universal Studios!

I plan on continuing my research. My project was in Computational Biology/Bioinformatics, a field that I am particularly interested in. I am intrigued by this intersection of biology and computer science, and how this field can help with various diseases. I would definitely continue research in the area of neurodegenerative disease.

Akash Ragam ’26, "FoGDTECT: A Novel Non-Invasive Freezing of Gait (FoG) Monitoring Solution Integrating Machine Learning and Mobile App Accelerometer Data"

Freezing of Gait (FoG) is one of the most profound symptoms of Parkinson's disease that impairs balance and increases fall risk leading to severe outcomes. For my project, I created a non-invasive FoG detection and monitoring solution using machine learning to improve overall diagnostics and personalized treatment plans.

It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience to fly down to Los Angeles and interact with some of the brightest minds of our generation! I had tons of fun meeting people from around the world and learning about some ground-breaking projects. My favorite parts were the student mixer and the after-hours event at Universal Studios!

I’m passionate about creating new technologies to solve important problems in the medical field, and I want my work to make an impactful, positive difference in people's lives. I dream of developing better and more affordable tools for diagnosing diseases like cancer early on and creating advanced prosthetic limbs. I see my future career full of exciting advancements in biomedicine that help a lot of people.

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