Coriell Institute Science Fair Winner Takes Top Prize in International Competition


Congratulations to Maya Butani, a winner in the 2021 Coriell Institute Science Fair, for her recent First Place Award in the 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)!

Butani, a rising senior at Moorestown High School in Moorestown, New Jersey, took home the First Award in Biochemistry for her project titled “Stem Cell Behavior and Osteogenic Differentiation on Plant-Derived Scaffolds” in which she explored the utility of plant materials in manufacturing tissue for use in humans.

“There are more people who need organs than we have organs to give. We need to engineer a solution.” Butani said. “I was in my kitchen one day and noticed the vasculature of a spinach leaf was similar to the arteries and veins in our bodies. I wanted to see how these similarities could be utilized.”

Butani tackled her topic—discovering there was indeed potential, though more testing is needed—and presented her finding first at the Coriell Institute Science Fair in March. This was the 40th anniversary of the Coriell Institute Science Fair and, for the second year in a row, the event was held virtually due to the pandemic. Butani took home first place in her division.

From there, she moved onto the regional science fair, the Delaware Valley Science Fair, again taking a top placement which allowed her to move onto ISEF, the international competition, which also was held virtually.

Butani was worried that the virtual nature of the big event would take away some of the aspects she was looking forward to, but she said they did an excellent job producing the fair. There were panels to attend and there was even a 3D modeling that allowed participants to move through a virtual space and observe projects as if they were there.

“My favorite part was meeting other finalists,” she said. “I was upset that I might not be able to meet people, but I went out of my way and I met a really nice group of people. It was great to meet other people around the world with a similar passion and similar drive.”

Going into her senior year at Moorestown High School, Butani hasn’t yet decided where she’ll attend college, but she does know that her career will involve scientific research in some capacity. In the meantime, she’ll continue sharing her passion with others.

“Science is something that is really important to me,” she said. “I’m trying to start a new science club. I know that exposing students to experiential learning is the best way to introduce young students to science.”

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