Byram Hills High School proudly announces that senior Brent Perlman has won seventh place and a $70,000 award in the renowned Regeneron Science Talent Search for his biological engineering research that involved inducing photosynthesis in human stem cells.
Brent, 17, won the honor Tuesday night at the annual awards gala in Washington, and was one of 10 students to win top prizes. The competition, run by the Society for Science & the Public, bills itself as the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.
For his research, Brent designed a process to induce photosynthesis in human cells for the first time, which could have applications in the treatment of heart attack, stroke and cancer. He achieved this accomplishment by isolating chloroplasts, the photosynthetic components of plant cells, from baby spinach leaves, and culturing them with human cells.
“I am so honored and excited to have won seventh place in the Regeneron Science Talent Search and cannot thank the Society for Science & the Public and Regeneron enough for this award,” Brent said.
“I plan on putting my $70,000 toward my biological education and research, and am inspired to continue my work with chloroplasts and human photosynthesis,” he added. “With this award, my dream of one day creating impactful chloroplast therapies comes one step closer to reality.”
Deb Cayea, chairperson of the Byram Hills science department, called Brent an extraordinary person and a leader.
“His contributions to the scientific community, as a young scholar, are really, really exceptional,” she said. “I’m so happy his work has been recognized nationally. The universe will benefit from Brent’s talents. He is truly a special person and I’m sure that his passion for science research will continue to manifest in great things.”
Brent’s research involved photosynthesis, the process plants use to produce oxygen and sugar from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. The ability of human cells to photosynthesize allows them to generate oxygen, which they are normally unable to produce. The oxygen produced by these photosynthetic cells promotes healthy tissue and organ development and growth, and can help treat different diseases.
Brent's research also has applications in the engineering of functional organs in a lab, the delivery of biopharmaceuticals to affected human cells in the body and even space travel. Brent, a student in the Byram Hills three-year Authentic Science Research Program, has a patent pending for his work.
“We are all so proud of Brent's accomplishments,” said Stephanie Greenwald, the program’s director. “He is a daring, determined scientist who has been an inspiration to everyone in the program and a constant reminder of the power of combining creativity with curiosity. His success is shared by the Byram Hills Authentic Science Research Program and the whole school community.”
Brent thanked those who helped make his success possible, including his high school teachers and his mentors at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
“I am so grateful for my Byram Hills High School Authentic Science Research teachers Mrs. Stephanie Greenwald, Dr. Caroline Matthew, and Mrs. Megan Salomone, for their amazing support and advice over the past three years,” he said. “Without their help, I would never be the researcher that I am today. My mentors, Dr. Glenn Gaudette and Dr. Joshua Gershlak, and my parents also supported me every step of the way.”
In the fall, Brent plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he will study in the Vagelos Program in Life Sciences & Management.