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SALINE, MI – Ask Neel Moudgal what his greatest passion is and you may discover him conflicted with a plethora of possibilities and talents for him to decide on 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 considering that his sophomore year and is the member of a Quiz Bowl group that has competed annually in the national tournament.

His most current recognition may be his most impressive however.

On March 14, Neel was named the winner of initially spot and $250,000 for generating a computer system model that can swiftly and reliably predict the structure of RNA molecules applying only very easily 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 simpler to diagnose and treat specific illnesses like cancer, lupus, epilepsy and other autoimmune illnesses.

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

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

Just 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.

Due to the fact it was a computational system, nevertheless, Neel was capable to do the function remotely, publishing a paper along with University of Michigan Biophysics Professor Dr. Aaron Frank on April 26, 2022.

Even though the study wasn’t performed 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 carry out a wide wide variety of functions on their personal that are integral to cell function.

“Almost each function that the cell wants, RNA can serve,” he stated. “It’s not necessarily correct that it does anything, but in specific situations, it has been shown to be capable to do virtually anything. So, the new view is that RNA is possibly a huge important player in the cell and some say even a lot more essential than even DNA.”

Neel in the end created a computer system 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 all-natural state, but also studying how RNA is in these pathological illness states,” Neel stated. “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 find out he was the winner of the competitors when his name was announced would be a “massive understatement.”

“It took a even though for me to completely method what was taking place,” he stated. “I spent the whole week with all the other 39 finalists and I felt like every single and each a single of them have been a lot more than deserving of the award. So when I was selected, it was entirely unreal and I truly felt like I was dreaming for a even though.”

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

Neel described his encounter 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 important player” in his achievement as a student.

“My sophomore year, I basically 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 stated. “I truly am pretty grateful to have somebody like him.”

Even 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 encounter ahead of going to college to continue his function 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 techniques that full him as a individual.

“I just personally think that by focusing pretty substantially on a single point – like if I just focused all my interest to study and did practically nothing else – I would be a pretty unidimensional individual,” he stated. “I assume it is essential to pursue these distinct issues just for mental properly-becoming and such.”

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