Senior Named Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar

Vivian Webb School senior Fiona Jiang has been named a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar, among just 300 students from 185 high schools the nation recognized for their brilliant entries in the nation’s oldest science competition.

The prestigious competition, staged by the Society for Science and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, features Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Grant winners among its alumni. More than 1,800 students enter, 300 are named scholars and 40 are finalists.

“I was really shocked because I did not expect to be named as a scholar, knowing that all of the submitted projects were so amazing,” she said. “This award means a lot to me because it is a recognition of my potential in STEM fields as well as of my project.”

Jiang’s project was titled “Characterizing Decades of Technological Advances with Graph Neural Networks: An Innovation Network Perspective.” In it, she analyzes 7 million patents issued by the U.S. Patent Office from 1976 to 2020 to detect patterns in innovation.

She built an algorithm to examine the patterns, finding clusters of innovation among specific disciplines and  related fields, a type of “innovation network” previously described in peer-reviewed research on economics.

“Using this computational effort, we proved this spillover effect occurred,” she said.

What’s more, her work suggests the patterns can be used as a predictive tool to see a pathway of discovery yet to come, Jiang said.

Jiang said she has been intrigued by innovation since participating in a summer program focused on launching startups before her junior year.

“I want to understand how innovation happens,” she said. “Is it something new that comes out of nowhere or is it something you can quantify?”

In crafting her project, Jiang drew on her experiences in Webb’s computer science class as well as Webb’s partnership program with Harvey Mudd College in computer science.

The partnership allows Webb students to take an entry-level computer science class at the college. Jiang took that course her junior year and has since progressed to more advanced instruction at the college.

At Webb, Jiang is a boarding student, a dorm prefect, a member of the junior varsity girls tennis team and president of the Filmmaking Club.

She has been accepted on early decision to the University of Pennsylvania and plans to continue her work there as part of the Rajendra and Neera Singh Program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering (NETS), the world’s first program to integrate disciplines to design and analyze complex networks, from the internet to commerce, social media to power grids.

“We are immensely proud of Fiona and we know this is just one of many honors to come,” Head of Schools Taylor B. Stockdale said. “Fiona’s work in the talent search – and indeed, her work at Webb in general – is emblematic of the kind of unbounded thinking Webb seeks to inspire in our students.”

February 7, 2022

12:28 PM PST