Saline student’s study on RNA wins $250K award, could assist diagnose and treat illnesses

SALINE, MI – Ask Neel Moudgal what his greatest passion is and you could obtain him conflicted with a plethora of choices and talents for him to pick from.

The Saline Higher College senior has a black belt in Taekwondo and has traveled across the nation to attend rock and mineral shows and gather uncommon specimens from across the earth. He’s won a national finance competitors, has taken classes at the University of Michigan due to the fact his sophomore year and is the member of a Quiz Bowl group that has competed annually in the national tournament.

His most current recognition could be his most impressive but.

On March 14, Neel was named the winner of 1st spot and $250,000 for generating a personal computer model that can swiftly and reliably predict the structure of RNA molecules utilizing only simply accessible information. He was announced as the winner in the 2023 Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competitors for higher college seniors hosted along with the Society for Science.

He believes the study will make it a lot easier to diagnose and treat particular illnesses like cancer, lupus, epilepsy and other autoimmune illnesses.

“The hypothesis is that by understanding the challenges triggered by an RNA segment obtaining the incorrect structure, we can far better comprehend how these illnesses perform and how we can treat them,” Moudgal mentioned. “My project focused on attempting to take a sequence of RNA and predicting the structure it ought to kind.”

Neel mentioned he created a appreciate of science soon after he started attending Saline as a middle college student taking precalculus and AP classes.

Right after earning a Davidson Fellowship Scholarship in 2022, Neel was encouraged by other fellows who had previously participated in the Regeneron Science Talent Search to enter the study he had been operating on prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given that it was a computational plan, nonetheless, Neel was capable to do the perform remotely, publishing a paper along with University of Michigan Biophysics Professor Dr. Aaron Frank on April 26, 2022.

Though the study wasn’t completed with the talent search competitors in thoughts, Neel believed it aligned properly with what the competitors was asking for, in terms of original study at a higher level in the science field.

Neel’s study explores the function of RNA, a type of “messenger molecule,” he says, which execute a wide assortment of functions on their personal that are integral to cell function.

“Almost each function that the cell requirements, RNA can serve,” he mentioned. “It’s not necessarily correct that it does anything, but in particular situations, it has been shown to be capable to do just about anything. So, the new view is that RNA is possibly a enormous essential player in the cell and some say even additional critical than even DNA.”

Neel eventually created a personal computer model that can swiftly and reliably predict the structure of different RNA molecules to facilitate the improvement of novel diagnostics and therapeutic drugs for illnesses such as cancer, autoimmune illnesses and viral infections.

“It type of assists inform researchers in studying each how RNA is in its organic state, but also studying how RNA is in these pathological illness states,” Neel mentioned. “Hopefully that will give us a far better understanding of how we can treat these illnesses and diagnose them in the future.”

To say Neel was shocked to study he was the winner of the competitors when his name was announced would be a “massive understatement.”

“It took a though for me to totally course of action what was taking place,” he mentioned. “I spent the complete week with all the other 39 finalists and I felt like every single and each a single of them have been additional than deserving of the award. So when I was selected, it was completely unreal and I genuinely felt like I was dreaming for a though.”

Neel credits the his expertise operating with teachers and counselors at Saline Higher College by means of the years for fostering his appreciate of science and facilitating possibilities for him to earn college credits.

Neel described his expertise at Saline as “incredible,” highlighted by the help he’s received from math teacher Jennifer Dodge, chemistry teacher Bridgette Sparks and physics teacher Corbin Brown. He also credits higher college counselor Bryan Bruckman as a “very essential player” in his results as a student.

“My sophomore year, I truly began taking classes at the University of Michigan and (Bruckman) was the a single who was capable to organize my schedule in such a way that I would be capable to finish up with my Saline classes and leave and go take classes at UM,” Neel mentioned. “I genuinely am really grateful to have somebody like him.”

Though Neel plans to use the $250,000 toward earning future college degrees, he is also excited to delight in the remainder of his higher college expertise prior to going to college to continue his perform in study and clinical medicine.

As the kid of two parents in the STEM field his concentrate is in the field of science, but Neel says his aforementioned hobbies balance him out in strategies that full him as a particular person.

“I just personally think that by focusing really a great deal on a single factor – like if I just focused all my focus to study and did practically nothing else – I would be a really unidimensional particular person,” he mentioned. “I consider it is critical to pursue these diverse points just for mental properly-becoming and such.”

Study Much more:

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