It may be difficult to find an area student who’s enjoyed a better start to the new year than Crescenta Valley High’s Lyron Co Ting Keh.
The senior received his second distinguished recognition within two weeks by being named one of 40 national finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search on Wednesday.
“The Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists are our country’s most promising young scientists, and I’m thrilled to congratulate them on this outstanding academic achievement,” said George D. Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron and the 1976 Science Talent Search winner, in a statement.
The competition, hosted by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and the Society for Science & the Public, claims to be the “nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math contest for high school seniors” and comes with a $25,000 cash prize for all finalists.
“This award was actually by surprise, and it’s really crazy,” Co Ting Keh said. “I remember talking to my mom a year ago about this, and I remember seeing last year’s group, which was called the ‘next generation of America’s scientists’ and I thought it was really elite.”
Co Ting Keh added, “I wasn’t sure I could be in that group, so this is amazing. It’s validation for all the work and motivation for more.”
Co Ting Keh’s award comes after he was lauded as one of five “Young Innovators to Watch” from the United States and Canada by technology and lifestyle event producers Living in Digital Times at the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10.
In that competition, Co Ting Keh was selected among an applicant pool of 100 candidates and received $500 cash, among other gifts.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search involves larger odds and more money.
Co Ting Keh was picked out of nearly 2,000 applicants, who all created an original research project and completed an extensive application process.
Co Ting Keh was recognized by both award competitions for his machine-learning algorithm model called HICCUP, which stands for Hierarchical Classification of Cancer of the Unknown Primary.
HICCUP was created while Co Ting Keh worked at Stanford University’s Alizadeh Lab as a more inexpensive and less invasive way to detect “cancer [that] is found in one or more metastatic sites but the primary site cannot be determined,” according to the disease’s definition by the American Cancer Society.
The teen calculated that his algorithm is roughly 18% more accurate than industry standards, such as biopsies and MRIs, in detecting cancer from an unknown primary site, while costing quite a bit less.
HICCUP utilizes a blood sample to track DNA released by a cancerous tumor into the bloodstream.
In the Regeneron competition, Co Ting Keh is in the running for top 10 grants that range from $40,000 to the grand prize of $250,000 — on top of $25,000 finalist prize.
Co Ting Keh is one of eight California residents to be named as a finalist, but the lone representative from Los Angeles County.
The Crescenta Valley High senior will find out if he’s a top 10 finisher during a black-tie award ceremony at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on March 12.
Co Ting Keh leaves for the nation’s capital on March 6, and he said he is thrilled for “a big week.”
“They said they’re going to spoil us, so I’m really excited,” he said. “I look forward to meeting the other finalists, members of Congress and scientists and share my ideas with them and hear their ideas.”