Exeter senior captures nation’s top STEM prize

Achyuta Rajaram ’24 wins $250,000 as top finisher in the 83rd Regeneron Science Talent Search.

March 13, 2024
Achyuta Rajaram wins Regeneron top prize

When the dust settled in Washington, D.C., this week, Achyuta Rajaram ’24 won the top award and took home a whopping $250,000 in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competition.

Rajaram’s winning project, an automatic method to determine which parts of a computer model makes decisions, aims to illuminate how these algorithms are “thinking” and make them more effective, safe and equitable as a result. 

A senior from Hopedale, Massachusetts, Rajaram was one of three Exonians among the top 40 finalists, each of whom took home $25,000 for besting a total field of 300 scholars and 2,162 entrants. The Science Talent Search reported this year’s pool of applicants as its largest since the 1960s.

Alan Bu ’24, of Glenmont, New York, won 10th place and a prize of $40,000 for a math project that gave precise limits on how many spanning trees — the connecting points of vertices in a graph — that can exist in a planar graph, in which no edges cross each other.

Riya Tyagi ’24, of Short Hills, New Jersey, won $25,000 for placing in the top 40 finalists. Her project focused on using computer vision to investigate how AI determines patients’ race and ethnicity, with the goal of enabling the development of more ethical A.I.-powered healthcare software.

Representing 36 schools across 19 states, the finalists spent the week meeting with competition judges and other scientists as well as touring congressional offices and monuments and visiting the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities.

With their achievement, Rajaram, Bu and Tyagi join the ranks of Science Talent Search alumni, many of whom have gone on to acclaimed careers in STEM fields and captured international honors including the Nobel Prize, National Medal of Science, Fields Medal and MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Among those alumni is PEA’s Yunseo Choi ’21, who won the top prize three years ago for a project focused on matchmaking theory.