HomeMoorestown NewsStudent’s biochemistry research pays off

Student’s biochemistry research pays off

Maya Butani takes top prize at science, engineering fair.

Special to The Sun: Moorestown High School senior Maya Butani was in Atlanta to receive her first-place award at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair for her category in biochemistry.

Moorestown High School senior Maya Butani won first place at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta earlier this month for her category in biochemistry.

Society for Science, a nonprofit that promotes the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement, holds annual competitions such as the fair to inform, educate and inspire students around the world. 

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At the fair, Butani participated in symposiums, met others who shared a passion for science and engineering and faced the competition itself. Her category was sponsored by Regeneron, a biotechnology company that invents life-transforming medicines for people with serious diseases.

“I got to talk to a lot of people who were involved with Regeneron and kind of get an idea of what working in the field would look like for the specific field of science that I’m interested in,” Butani noted. 

“(That) was really cool because it exposed me to different paths in science that I hadn’t really had exposure to before,” she added, “so it was a really cool way to kind of get an idea of different science professions.”

Butani explained how her first-place project could help people all over the world.

“This project basically fills a problem where there are a lot more people who need organs than we have healthy organs and tissues to give,” she said. “So if you could recreate new, healthy tissues from a patient’s own cells you could solve that problem.”

An issue Butani raised is finding material that new tissue can grow in.

Special to The Sun: Moorestown student Maya Butani poses with her research at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta.

“What I look at doing is taking plant material as that environment to grow new human tissues in,” she said.

“So I kind of processed these plant tissues a little bit then added human cells to them, and I was able to create early bone and muscle tissue. That could ultimately replace the need for the current types of organ transplants that we’re doing to make it more accessible for millions of people who need healthy organs and don’t have access to them.”

Butani said that to qualify for the ISEF, she needed to first compete for the Delaware Valley Science Fair (DVSF), a competition that serves students in South Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

“In order to qualify from (the) Delaware Valley Science Fair to the International Science Fair, you have to win first, second or third in your entire grade … “ she explained. “Then after qualifying for that, those 12 students, the top three from 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade, move on to the International Science and Engineering Fair.”

Butani also earned an award from the National Anti-Vivisection Society.

“It’s an organization that is against animal use in science, and because my project is a plant-based alternative, they appreciated that as an alternative to other animal-based forms of tissue engineering,” she offered.

The student is grateful for the experiences she had, the people she met and the information she took away from the ISEF.

“I think one of the biggest things that I love about the science fair is how incredibly brilliant and interesting the people that you meet are,” Butani said. “It honestly gives you a lot of hope for what the future of science might look like, because you know that these people are ultimately going to be on the frontlines of that.”

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