Science Talent Search

Teen wins $250,000 for her harvest prediction tool that could help prevent starvation in Africa.

Founded in 1942, America's oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition seeks to recognise and empower the country's most promising young scientists who are developing ideas that could solve society’s most urgent challenges.

Each year, nearly 1,900 students enter the Regeneron STS, submitting original research in critically important scientific fields of study. Unique among high school competitions, the Regeneron STS focuses on identifying, inspiring, and engaging the most promising scientists among the nation’s high school seniors.


This year, Lillian Kay Petersen of New Mexico won the top prize of a quarter million dollars. The 17 year old invented a simple and remarkably accurate tool for predicting harvests early in the growing season which, in turn, helps improve food distribution planning and offers a promising resource for organisations working on global food insecurity.


Lillian first validated her tool, which analyses daily satellite imagery using accepted measures of vegetation health, on known domestic crop data. She then tested it for countries in Africa and successfully predicted harvests with terrific accuracy when compared with reported yields.


“Students like Lillian Petersen are the stewards of our future. The current pandemic has made it clear how important science is to our wellbeing. With these finalists at the forefront of scientific and engineering discovery, I know we are in good hands. They will be solving the world’s most intractable problems,” said Maya Ajmera, President of the Society for Science & the Public, which runs the contest.


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