Nonbinary high school senior Linden James has won $90,000 in a national competition for science and math students.
James, who attends the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, placed fifth in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, The News & Observerof Raleigh reports. There were 40 finalists in the competition, which is billed as the oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The winners were announced Tuesday.
In the project submitted for the contest, James looked at a potential treatment for traumatic brain injuries. They tested the application of a thyroid hormone called T3 on wax moth caterpillars. The results indicated the hormone could benefit humans.
“Linden is a gifted young neuroscientist whose research into a potential new treatment for traumatic brain injury could help us improve patient outcomes, and we very much look forward to finding out what they’ll do next,” said a statement from Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the Society for Science and executive publisher of Science News. The competition is sponsored by the Society for Science and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
James said their parents and teachers encouraged them in scientific pursuits. Their win is a victory for inclusion, they told The News & Observer.
“Being a nonbinary and queer finalist, this competition really speaks volumes to the acceptance and inclusion that the Regeneron Science Talent Search perpetuates,” James said. “I grew up in a family with two moms in a community that wasn’t always very accepting. And so coming this far is really empowering for me.”
“I’ve had mentors that really inspired me to keep going and have really shown me that I defined my self-worth, not any societal standards, not anyone else’s opinions of me,” they added. “Being able to pass that on, through this program and through the people I interact with and through the young queer scientists that might be looking up to me now ... that’s really amazing.”
They plan to attend college overseas and hope to work in a field that combines science and public policy, perhaps dealing with the environment or assisting developing countries. They are considering taking a year off after high school to work with children from marginalized communities. James currently is a counselor at a summer camp, volunteers with Kids Voting Durham, and is a Spanish tutor.