NCHS Senior Luke Huang Earns Top-300 Ranking from Society for Science [Q&A]


NCHS Senior Luke Huang with his certificate on being selected by the Society of Science as a top 300 scholar in the 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search. Credit: Michael Dinan

New Canaan High School senior Luke Huang has been selected as one of the top 300 scholars in the Society for Science’s 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search. The nation’s oldest science and math competition for high school seniors, it’s designed to recognize promising student scientists researching ideas that could make extraordinary contributions to the world’s most pressing scientific issues. Huang was selected from a pool of 

According to the Society of Science, scholars were selected from a pool of 2,126 applications from 712 high schools across 46 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and other nations. Each entry is reviewed by three or more doctorate degree scientists, engineers, or mathematicians based on the subject area of entry. The Top 40 Finalists of the 300 student scholars will be selected Wednesday, where they will then compete for more than $1.8 million in awards in a week-long competition in Washington, D.C. The top-10 winners of that group will be announced in March. 

We met Huang at New Canaan Library on Monday afternoon.

Here’s a transcript of our interview.


New Canaanite: Before we get into the details of the submission for the Regeneron Science Talent Search, tell us a little bit about yourself and New Canaan. You’re a senior at New Canaan High School. Did you go New Canaan public schools all the way through? 

Luke Huang: I was born in Seattle and I lived there until I was six. Then we came to Connecticut and I was living in Old Greenwich. In third grade I came here, and ever since then I’ve been in public schools.

Which schools did you go to in the third grade? 

Luke Huang as a South School fourth-grader.

I went to South school. 

South and then Saxe and now the high school. What are you involved in through New Canaan High School? Are you involved in clubs? Do you do sports or other extracurriculars? Tell us about your day-to-day during the school year. 

After school, I’m a captain of the math team and I also run the Renewable Energy Club, which I founded two years ago. And then I’m also a features editor of the New Canaan High School paper. And outside of school, I’m also really interested in math and science. So that would be like involving research. 

So you do math and science outside of the school program. 

Yes, so actually I’ve used MIT’s online resources. They have a wonderful catalog of online courses called OpenCourseWare. And that’s where I’ve gotten a lot of the advanced materials, more specific to my research, since it’s in-depth. And outside with my free time, I love baking cake rolls.

No way.

Luke Huang’s Swiss roll.

Swiss cake rolls. 

You do the frosting that goes inside?

I do.

And you roll it?


No way.

Yeah, you bake a sheet and then you put it over like a cinnamon roll, and then you roll it up. 

Oh my god. What flavors do you do? 

I love matcha. 

Is that the flavor of the cake or the filling?

I’ve done both. But usually the cake is matcha. The filling, I can just do plain, like it’d just be whipped cream. Or I could add some matcha powder in there. And it’d be matcha flavored as well. 

That sounds amazing. Who do you make them for? 

Luke Huang’s cookies.

So I actually got into baking because my grandmother when I was little. I loved baking egg tarts with her.

This was out in Seattle? 

Yeah in Seattle. She’s actually one of the reasons why I started my research. At the start of the pandemic—and she moved with us to Connecticut—she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and because of that I’ve really realized that there’s so many diseases related to aging that affect us, and I wanted to be able to make a difference with the skills I had. Which is why I began researching the question: How does aging affect our risk of diseases and how can we predict that to better inform our healthcare system?

What’s your grandmother’s name? 

My grandmother’s name is Chenguan. It’s spelled C-H-E-N and then G-U-A-N. 

Is she alive? 

Unfortunately she just passed away this November. 

I’m sorry. 

Thanks. I just hope my research will help prevent people from going through this situation. One of the main reasons I pursued this was because I wanted people to have a better understanding of their risk, because sometimes people think, ‘OK, I might get Alzheimer’s in the next year but is it really that high of a risk?’ And I think the point of my project was to quantify it the same as, ‘Are you as likely to get it as die in a car crash if you don’t have a seat belt?’ People can understand those types of risks, and if they understand that, then I feel like they’re more incentivized to check up.

This is based on the incidence of Alzheimer’s? 


We’re going to get to your submission specifically. But first, tell us how long have you been interested in math and science? 

Okay, funnily enough, it also started with my grandparents. My grandpa, he used to be an electrical engineer. Since I was little, he used to tell stories about how the earth rotated around the sun, how the moon rotates around the earth, and all those science stories, I loved. I absolutely loved it. And that’s what got me started in science. 

Your grandfather, is this the same set of grandparents as the grandmother you just mentioned?


And what’s your grandfather’s name? 

My grandfather’s name is Sun Gencheng. That’s S-U-N, then G-E-N-C-H-E-N-G. Both of my grandparents were born in China. They were born in the 1940s. During that time there really weren’t any opportunities in China. My grandfather was born in a farming village, and he just studied really hard. He got to a national university. And that’s actually where they met. It was the Beijing University.

Are these your father’s parents or your mom’s?

My mom’s.

Let’s talk about the Regeneron Science Talent Search. What made you want to enter? How did you hear about it? 

I actually found out about it during my first year that I was in the high school physically, so 10th grade. I was walking around in the science hallways on the third floor, and I saw a poster of past winners from New Canaan High School. And that’s why I first entered. I realized it was only open for seniors, but that’s how I first found out about it. 

It was on your radar for a while before you entered this year. 


Let’s talk about your submission. The title is “Binary Cellular Analysis: Understanding Link Between Aging and Mortality Risk.” You gave us a little bit of background on how you landed on this topic. Tell me about the research itself and what your submission says. 

The central question I was trying to answer is why, every eight years, our chance of death to many diseases seems to double. For example, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s—the chance of dying from them doubles every year. So for example, at age 60, your chance of dying next year from all of these combined is 1%. And then at 68, it would be 2%, at 76, it would be 4%. And it increases exponentially. And that adds up. Currently, at least two-thirds of all the deaths worldwide are due to these age-related diseases. And that’s why I wanted to answer this fundamental question about aging. Now, the way I approached this was, first I tried to find a link between how aging at the cell level—at the cell level, there’s a lot of garbage or damage, wear and tear—and I basically use my mathematical modeling to find out how they accumulate over time. The main result we’ve shown is that this cellular aging is likely a reason for this exponential growth and mortality risk. Obviously getting these diseases is sometimes random—for example, a heart attack could result from being clogged in the wrong way—but a healthy person is much more likely to survive it simply because their heart is healthier. It’s stronger. As we get older, the frailer your body gets. And that’s what I model. 

It almost sounds like you are studying something in depth that a lot of people, if they’re listening to you, they may not understand the nuance of what you’re saying. They might hear you just saying you’re more likely to die the older you get. 

Yes, that’s true. 

So correct those people. Tell them what they’re missing.

This fact—that we are two times as likely every eight years to die to these diseases—is such a prevalent thing in our lives that we don’t even realize it. It’s somehow common sense, but in biology and in the animal kingdom, that’s actually not true.

Explain that. 

There are some species—for example, naked mole rats, the hydra, which is a type of jellyfish—where it takes them over 100 years for their chance of death to double. And that’s a huge difference. Because what I mentioned earlier—that at age 60, your chance of dying the next year is 1%—if that didn’t change, then you would, on average, expect to live 100 years more. And what’s really causing that, what’s blocking us from continuing to live longer, is this exponential thing. This exponential growth is so prevalent in our lives, we don’t even realize it. And it’s one of the most life-robbing ‘diseases,’ if you could call it that, in our lives. 

We started out talking about a disease in Alzheimer’s. How is the research you’ve done connected to reducing the likelihood that families will have to endure the hardship that you’ve endured losing your grandmother?

It’s more on the preventative side, I would say. I’ll name another example to make this a little clearer. The second most common form of cancer death related cancer is colon cancer. And it’s because people don’t go to checkups. Don’t check it because a colonoscopy is quite invasive, but colon cancer is actually one of the easiest forms of cancer to cure. So what I want to do is better inform people of the risks and better inform policy-makers of when should doctors like tell people to get a checkup on this, because sometimes even one or two years can make a huge difference.

Later this week, the top-40 among the 300 finalists, yourself included, will be chosen. How are you feeling about that selection? 

Obviously I’m very nervous. But I’m also very honored to get to this stage. I couldn’t have done it without all the support from not only my high school and especially my all my teachers, especially Mr. [Paul] Reid, my physics teacher. And also to my mentor, Professor James Michelson. I spent months coldly emailing professors and he ultimately was gracious enough to offer me ab opportunity to work with him. Even if I don’t selected—which is like more likely than not, because it’s 40 out of 300, right?—I’m still very honored, and I just want to continue doing this sort of work where I apply my skills and hopefully solve a problem that all of us face.

What are your plans for next year? 

I’m very interested in physics and mathematics, and its application to healthcare. That’s why I want to pursue a physics major with an additional concentration or minor depending on where you go, in biophysics or medical healthcare technology. 

Thank you. It was good to meet you.

Thank you.

6 thoughts on “NCHS Senior Luke Huang Earns Top-300 Ranking from Society for Science [Q&A]

  1. This was a terrific interview! As an interested reader, I waited for the news: what college/university will have the great pleasure of welcoming this wonderful young man? Modesty is not needed here!

  2. Math and matcha Swiss rolls! This article is a must-read! Luke Huang is an impressive kid. He may win the Nobel Prize someday but can New Canaan give him a hometown heroes medal now?

  3. Congrats, Luke! I’ve known Luke since he moved here. In addition to being a brilliant scientist, he’s a very talented musician and, more importantly, a fine young man.
    He’s one of New Canaan’s finest. I’m happy to see all of his hard work recognized.

  4. Congratulations to Luke and his proud family! He is a shining example of New Canaan excellence. He will no doubt contribute greatly to humanity. And yes, Mr. Paul Reid is one of the most talented Physics teachers and a reminder why we need to invest in our New Canaan schools and support our teachers. Go Rams!

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