O'Doherty Lab Member Wins Second Place and $175,000 in National High School Science Competition

Published by daniel, on March 13, 2019

O'Doherty Lab Member Wins Second Place and $175,000 in National High School Science Competition

March 13, 2019

Samuel Weissman, a member of the Una O'Doherty Lab in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and a student at the Harriton High School in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, won second place in this year's Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The award includes $175,000 in prize money.

Sam Weissman, 17, began volunteering in the O'Doherty Lab more than three years ago. He received the award for his project analyzing the genetic makeup of HIV in two patients on long-term anti-retroviral therapy to understand why they continued to have “reservoirs” of treatment-resistant HIV-infected cells. Sam’s research suggests that HIV-infected cells both clonally expand and are killed, therefore forming a reservoir of infected cells, which expands our understanding of HIV and may impact future treatment approaches. Dr. O'Doherty said, "Sam started pestering me to volunteer in my lab several years ago and he immediately proved to be extremely capable. I am so proud of his achievements!" 

Sam is one of the first authors of a recent Nature Communications paper, "Longitudinal HIV sequencing reveals reservoir expression leading to decay which is obscured by clonal expansion" from the O'Doherty lab. The paper analyzes the dynamics of the HIV reservoir by longitudinal proviral sequencing and reveals that HIV reservoir expression can contribute to its clearance and paradoxically even to its persistence.

Photo: Sam presenting his work to Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH.

Forty finalists were honored at the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search awards gala. The prize recipients join the ranks of Science Talent Search alumni who have gone on to receive more than 100 of the world's most esteemed science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science, to start successful biotechnology and technology companies, and to change the world through their groundbreaking inventions. Regeneron provided awards totaling more than $1.8 million for the finalists, who were evaluated for their research projects, as well as their exceptional scientific and mathematical knowledge, problem-solving abilities and potential as future scientific leaders.

Photo: The moment of the announcement.

Photo: Sam Weissman, left, and Dr. Una O'Doherty.

A short video summarizing Sam's research:



Link to Philadelphia Inquirer article
Link to Regeneron Press Release