Four Local students receive top awards at highly competitive International Science & Engineering Fair (PRSEF)

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ISEF winners from the Pittsburgh region (left to right): Andrew Ni, Zoe Lakkis, Rajan Reddy, Arvind Seshan

After presenting award-winning projects during Carnegie Science Center’s virtual Pittsburgh Regional Science & Engineering Fair (PRSEF) on March 24, seven students from Pittsburgh-area high schools were selected to represent the region at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), held in May. Nearly 2,000 students representing 49 states and 64 countries across the globe competed in ISEF, which is the world’s largest international high school competition. Historically held in person, the competition was hosted virtually this year due to the pandemic.
Four of the seven finalists from the Pittsburgh area won grand awards in their category. The four ISEF winners from the Pittsburgh region are:

Andrew Ni, Pine-Richland High School — 2nd Place in Biomedical and Health Sciences

  • Andrew’s project, Interleukin-33 promotes Th17 cell clonal expansion in the B16 tumor microenvironment, investigated aspects of cancer immunotherapy and highlighted potential paths to improve immune checkpoint-blockade therapy. At PRSEF, Andrew placed first in the Senior Division Biology category.

Zoe Lakkis, Fox Chapel Area High School — 3rd Place in Computation Biology and Bioinformatics

  • Zoe’s project, Data Mining to Identify Therapeutic Targets for Rejection, analyzed reasons why transplanted organs may be rejected by patients. At PRSEF, Zoe placed second in the Senior Division Computer Science/Math category.

Rajan Reddy, Winchester Thurston School — 3rd Place in Biomedical and Health Sciences

  • Rajan’s project, Activation of Pregnane X Receptor for Xenobiotic Detoxification: A Novel Approach to Targeting Pollution-Related Diseases, explored how air pollution may affect a protein that helps the body sense the presence of foreign toxic substances. At PRSEF, Rajan placed second in the Senior Division Biology category.

Arvind Seshan, Fox Chapel Area High School — 3rd Place in Systems Software

  • Arvind’s project, Enabling High-Accuracy Human Activity Recognition with Fine-Grained Indoor Localization, used machine learning to identify common indoor human activities that are difficult to detect with traditional smartphone human activity recognition systems. At PRSEF, Arvind placed first in the Senior Division Computer Science Category.

The additional ISEF finalists who represented the Pittsburgh region this year are:
Natalie McGee, Mount Lebanon High School

  • At PRSEF, Natalie placed first in the Senior Division Earth and Environment category.

Michael Gao, North Hills Senior High School

  • At PRSEF, Michael placed second in the Senior Division Medicine/Health/Microbiology category.

Steven Liu, Shady Side Academy Senior School

  • At PRSEF, Steven placed first in the Senior Division Chemistry category.

Before judging began, finalists were required to submit a one-page summary of their project, a slide presentation of their research, and an abstract document. They also had the option to include a supplemental video and/or research paper. Judges then reviewed these materials and interviewed students via video conference during the week of May 3–7. During the week of May 16–21, students had the opportunity to view a public exhibition of their fellow finalists’ research projects, as well as participate in livestreamed discussions about women in STEM, social innovation, entrepreneurship, and more. Winners were announced during two livestreamed awards ceremonies on May 20 and 21.

Regeneron ISEF is a program founded and produced by the Society for Science. For more information on ISEF, visit:

PRSEF is powered by the Duquesne Light Co. Center for STEM Education and Career Development. For more information on PRSEF, visit:


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