InSTAR Seniors Compete in Regeneron Science Talent Search

Photo courtesy of Ousa Chea on

Amber Luo, Staff Writer

Each year, seniors in Ward Melville’s InSTAR science research program submit their research work to the Regeneron Science Talent Search in hopes of being nationally recognized. The STS is one of the nation’s most prestigious high school science competitions, with over 1,800 original research submissions in science, mathematics, or engineering each year. 

“It’s very similar to a college application,” says Akshay Malhotra, a senior applying for the Regeneron STS. “[The application] is a holistic process, and it involves a lot more writing outside of research than you might expect.” Unlike a college application, however, only 300 students are recognized—40 of those 300 will earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. to present their research to the country’s leading scientists. 

For these seniors, Regeneron is the pinnacle of their three long years in Ward Melville’s InSTAR program. They start their journey in sophomore year in InSTAR I, learning the basics of scientific research by creating an original research project for submission to the Long Island Science Congress. Regeneron preparation begins in the junior year under the direction of Mr. Kettler and Mr. Dornicik, who assist students in the process of mentor search and guide them through the difficult process of writing an independent research paper. Come senior year, students submit their projects in mid-November with the help of Dr. Kula. 

Students face an extra hurdle this year as all research has gone virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Malhotra, for example, is investigating the impact of body mass index on adults with cardiac arrest undergoing coronary angiogram. Before the pandemic, he was able to collect data at Stony Brook Hospital; however, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, he had to begin collecting data through a virtual drive. 

Despite the newfound challenges, Ward Melville is no rookie when it comes to Regeneron. Last year, two Ward Melville seniors, Jordan Klein and Mariam Quraishi, were selected as Regeneron scholars for their work on tick-borne diseases and autism spectrum disorder, respectively. “We do InSTAR not for the awards but for the reward of getting lab experience and education.” said Klein. “Everyone already did that, which is a huge accomplishment very much worth being proud of.”