Teen Innovator Wins Big for Groundbreaking Plastic Biodegradation Research

Krish Pai, a 17-year-old from Del Mar, California, has secured the second Regeneron Young Scientist Award, earning $50,000 for his pioneering machine-learning project at the 2024 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. The competition, renowned as the world’s largest pre-college science and engineering event, announced its winners on May 17.

Pai’s project involved the development of a software called Microby, which scans microbial databases to identify organisms that can be genetically modified to biodegrade plastic. His research pinpointed two such microorganisms, presenting a potential recycling method ten times cheaper than conventional ones.

Grace Sun, 16, from Lexington, Kentucky, took home the $75,000 George D. Yancopoulos Innovator Award for her outstanding project.

The fair, which concluded with ceremonies on May 16 and 17, distributed over $9 million in awards to creative and innovative young scientists from 49 U.S. states and nearly 70 countries.

Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science, praised the winners, saying, “These students have demonstrated extraordinary ingenuity and determination in tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges.”

Other notable Indian American winners included Tanishka Balaji Aglave from Florida, who won $10,000 for her natural treatment research against citrus greening, and Ria Kamat from New Jersey, awarded an all-expense paid trip to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar for her work on tumor-induced osteoclastogenesis.

In addition to these top prizes, ten Indian Americans were among the 450 finalists recognized for their innovative contributions, each receiving a $5,000 “First Award.”

The event celebrated nearly 2,000 young scientists, highlighting the next generation’s potential to drive scientific progress and address global challenges.