If you don’t know who Yunseo Choi is, you will now! She’s an eighteen-year-old high school senior who just won the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS), one of the oldest and most prestigious science and math competitions for high school students. What was her winning entry and why is it such a big deal? Choi’s project focused on matchmaking—yes, love! In most cases, computers match potential pairs of people with a finite (or limited) number of people. Computers use algorithms (or a well-defined set of instructions to take an action) to determine who would be best suited with whom based on what each person’s interests, likes, dislikes, and what they want in a potential mate. She studied these algorithms and pinpointed specific properties that could be extracted to find matches with an infinite number of people. Why is this important? Without limitations, the potential for matches is much greater. While this project was focused on love matches, the idea is that Choi’s project which is based on match theory can expand to other situations where finding a match can be a matter of life or death, such as organ donation matches.
Choi was one of the 1,760 high school students who entered the contest hosted by The Society for Science this year. Forty student finalists were honored in a virtual event that would normally be held in person in Washington, DC. Choi is now a part of a prestigious group of winners who have gone on to win Nobel prizes and other field-specific honors for their work in the advancement of science and math. But perhaps even more importantly, alumni of this competition have gone on to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. Congratulations, Yunseo! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish next!