High school student Christine Ye, who has been conducting research with NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow Maya Fischbach since Fall 2020, has been named the winner of the 81st Regeneron Science Talent Search taking 1st place and winning the $250,000 top award. Forty finalists, including Christine, were honored during a livestreamed award ceremony emceed by Saturday Night Live’s Melissa Villaseñor on March 15th, 2022. More than $1.8 million was awarded to the finalists, who were evaluated based on their projects’ scientific rigor, their exceptional problem-solving abilities and their potential to become scientific leaders.
Maya Fishbach, Christine’s research advisor and mentor, said that “Christine reached out to me after attending my virtual talk at a conference in April 2020. After a couple of Zoom meetings, I gave her a research project, which she completed by Summer 2021, resulting in a research paper we published in Physical Review D. Later in the summer, she got the idea to study the masses and spins of neutron stars and black holes as her next project, and this is the project she ended up submitting to Regeneron. Christine worked on research throughout the summer and fall, and we met weekly to discuss her progress. She then wrote up a description of her project and original results and submitted the paper to Regeneron, along with several personal essays and my recommendation letter.”
Christine’s research focuses on the merging of neutron stars and black hole systems detected by gravitational-wave detectors LIGO and Virgo. According to Maya, “When LIGO and Virgo detected our first mergers of neutron stars with black holes, Christine realized there were several mysteries around these mergers, specifically regarding the uncertain boundary (neutron star maximum mass) between neutron stars and black holes, and the fact that this boundary may depend on how fast the neutron star is spinning.”
In particular, it is thought that spinning neutron stars can support more mass than their non-spinning counterparts. Therefore, after several discussions, Maya helped Christine refine her interests into a research topic that measures both the maximum neutron star mass and the minimum black hole mass found by analyzing the collisions between neutron stars and black holes. The gravitational waves resulting from these collisions were used as Christine’s method for determining the masses and spins, leading to an analysis fit for a spin-dependent neutron star at maximum mass.
“Christine is a passionate, creative and altogether brilliant scientist, and I’m so excited to see her honored with this prestigious award. It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate her incredible accomplishments as well as her potential as a rising young scientist,”
said Maya, who has been meeting with Christine over Zoom every week throughout the summer and fall. “It’s been a very difficult couple of years because of the pandemic, but working on interesting research problems with talented people has been a huge highlight and I’m so grateful for it.”
When asked about her experience participating in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, Christine said,
“for me being part of the Science Talent Search–for one provides a sense of reward and legitimacy because I’ve been working on this research for several years…I’m really glad to be kind of a part of this movement of getting young people into science early and getting them do this kind of research”.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides a national stage for future leaders in STEM – bringing together the best and brightest young minds to present their original research ideas to world-class scientists. The competition celebrates the hard work, innovative thinking, and creativity of students who are bringing a fresh perspective to solving significant global challenges through rigorous research and cutting-edge discoveries. The judging panel also considers how these research efforts, innovative thinking and leadership qualities demonstrate the students’ ability to drive forward critical STEM fields in the future
Congratulations to Christine on this distinguished recognition, and to Maya for her invaluable contributions to Christine’s research process. The CIERA community wishes them both all the best and looks forward to following their promising careers in astronomy.
- Learn more about Christine and her research here Meet Christine
- Watch Christine’s acceptance speech and reaction to winning 1st Place Video from Ceremony
- Learn more about the historical LIGO Discovery on August 17, 2017 that led to this new discovery GW170817
By Marlena Noeth and Darvell Jones