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Anthony Chen ‘21 selected as Semifinalist in Regeneron Science Talent Search, nation’s most prestigious high school science competition

SPA senior Anthony Chen ‘21 has been named a Top 300 Scholar and Semifinalist in the 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search competition. Chen is the only student from Minnesota to be named a Semifinalist. See the full list of 2021 Semifinalists.

Previously sponsored by Intel, the Regeneron STS is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The 300 Scholars were selected from 1760 research applications from 611 high schools across 45 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and 10 countries. Scholars are chosen based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking, and promise as scientists. 

Chen’s research paper, entitled The Effects of Short Term Radiofrequency Electromagnetic 
Radiation on Diatom Photosynthetic Productivity
, is a biological study of the effects of 5G cellular network frequencies of the radiofrequency (RF) spectrum of phytoplankton, with an eye towards understanding the potentially harmful effects of 5G cellular technology. Chen pursued his research as part of SPA's Advanced Science Research seminar in the fall of 2019; in February of 2020, the project also advanced to the finals of the International Science and Engineering Fair as part of the 2020 Twin Cities Regional Science Fair (pictured at right). 

Chen chose to pursue his topic not long after the introduction of 5G wireless technology and the “unparalleled bandwidths” it promised. “I couldn’t help but wonder how such new technologies might affect us, both in terms of negative health effects and environmental consequences,” Chen says. He realized that virtually no research had been done on the intersection of new, extremely high frequency electromagnetic radiation which make up 5G and the biosphere. “I began to design my own research, focused on addressing this gap in our understanding,” he says, eventually with the help of US Science faculty member Karissa Baker, who teaches the Advanced Science Research seminar. “I’ve always loved the sciences,” Chen says, “and the freedom and creativity of research made every failure a learning experience.” 

Baker was thrilled when Chen approached her about joining the ASR class to pursue research he had already begun on his own. “Anthony approached me midway through his sophomore year to tell me about a research project that he was working on at home,” Baker recalls. “I asked him to join my research class, and he jumped right into the experience.” Chen continued his ASR project in Baker’s class in his junior year, where he took the research “to the next level,” Baker says. “True to form, Anthony designed a project where he would need to construct his own apparatus. He built his own Faraday cages, which required some significant research to determine the appropriate materials and fabrication techniques. He dug into primary literature to choose the most appropriate diatoms to test, and to figure out his equipment set-up to measure dissolved oxygen levels. He achieved all of this independently, checking in as necessary to discuss access to equipment and to discuss his methods. Anthony is an excellent scientist and mathematician,” Baker says. “He is a remarkably independent, self-driven and collaborative problem-solver, and I am very pleased--but not at all surprised--that his work has been honored in the Regeneron competition.”

“I was overjoyed to be recognized,” Chen says of his Semifinalist award. "In many ways this award validated all my trials and tribulations, and invigorated me to keep striving and dreaming big for the future. I also believe this recognition is a testament to SPA's nurturing community of wonderful teachers and motivated students,” he adds. “My success would not have been possible without the influences of every person along the way, and for that I am truly grateful.”