10:46 AM

MLK Senior Named Regenero Science Talent Search Scholar

Youli Yao was Tennessee’s only semifinalist out of 300 nationally

Nashville, Tenn. – Jan. 25, 2018-- Metro Nashville Public Schools announced today one of its students, Youli Yao, who attends Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School, has been named a prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar.

Society for Science & the Public’s Regeneron Science Talent Search program is a premiere pre-collegiate science competition that began in 1942. This year, they received more than 1,800 applications; only 300 were selected as semifinalists and Yao was Tennessee’s only semifinalist.

“I actually never expected to get this,” Yao said. “I had the opportunity to do research over the summer and entered the competition through Vanderbilt. It was really an honor to get this award.”

Yao is a student in The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV), a joint venture between Vanderbilt University and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) that offers high school students an intensive interdisciplinary, research-centered learning experience. Eligible students are selected for the program through an annual application process.

“I worked in the Young Lab over the summer and researched heart failure. Walking out, after a summer’s worth of work, I had comprehensive knowledge of how the heart works, and how research can be so important to improving people’s lives. The ultimate goal was the development of a prescription drug to help those struggling with heart failure,” Yao said.

Yao completed her project with Pampee Young, M.D./Ph.D., in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology. Her project was titled, “Integrin Function is Preserved in SPRR3 Deficient Fibroblasts Isolated from a Cardioprotective Mouse Model.” She will receive a $2,000 prize and a matching award will be sent to her high school.

Her principal, Dr. Angela McShepard-Ray, said, “We are so proud of Youli. This award is an honor for both her and our school because it shows the kind of students we have at MLK and the excellent education one can get while attending our school.”

Dr. McShepard-Ray said the school will use the $2,000 award to buy microscopes for the science lab.

“The money is a welcome gift and is always needed to help keep our school technologically up to date; however, this kind of national award is most important to our school,” said McShepard-Ray. “It serves to help inspire other students to know ‘I’m here at MLK and if a student like Youli can do this, I have a shot and I need to apply myself’.”

Yao says the experience at Vanderbilt gave her a better sense of what the world of research could offer her in the future.

“Before I had completed a few labs in schools, but after this experience, I realized that research in a lab can make a visible change in the world. That really impacted me. Going into college undergrad research is something I’m considering,” Yao said.

Yao has applied to several Ivy-League schools, including Yale, Harvard, Penn. State, UCLA and NYU. Her parents are Guifeng Shao and Fenghui Yao.

For more information about becoming an SSMV scholar, please visit The program is accepting applicants now.

The SSMV receives funding from Vanderbilt University, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health, and other generous donors.

Partner contact:
Angela Eeds, School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt


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