Confirmed stars: 88 standout high schoolers complete Students and Teachers as Research Scientists program

by | Jul 22, 2019

The six-week research experience concluded Friday at UMSL with student presentations and a confirmation ceremony.
2019 STARS students

Nearly 90 high school students and seven undergraduate researchers participated in the 2019 STARS program. The six-week research experience concluded Friday at UMSL with student presentations and a confirmation ceremony. (Photo by August Jennewein)

For the past six weeks, 88 rising stars have been sprinkled across the St. Louis region. Some could be seen in labs working with leading biologists on innovative research while others were busy working on advanced initiatives in different sectors of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

All that bright talent converged on the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus Friday for the Students and Teachers as Research Scientists confirmation ceremony.

Since 1988, the STARS program has paired academically gifted students with researchers at UMSL, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis.

“These students are a focused, disciplined and outstanding academic group,” STARS director Ken Mares said. “I hope they’ve gained a great understanding of the research process and some additional motivation to pursue an undergraduate major in science.”

This year, high school students and seven undergraduate research associates assisted top St. Louis scientists while also exploring independent projects. They presented their findings while at UMSL Friday, and those paper summaries will soon be distributed to senior scientists across St. Louis for review and decisions on the Awards for Excellence in Research.

All the research papers will be assigned to one of four research categories: behavioral science, engineering, life science or physical science. The papers will then be reviewed by a panel from Bayer, Confluence Life Sciences, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and UMSL to determine the most outstanding papers in the four areas. The winning authors will then be presented a framed, Award for Excellence in Research certificate and five bound copies of their research papers at an awards ceremony at their high schools or school board meetings. The winners will each be notified at the end of August.

John McDonnell offered the challenge address during the STARS Program confirmation ceremony Friday at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. (Photo by Jim O’Brein)

During the confirmation ceremony at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, Immediate Past Chair of the Danforth Center John F. McDonnell offered the challenge address to students. McDonnell became chairman of the nonprofit research center in 2013 after a career serving as chairman of McDonnell Douglas and as a director of Boeing. The Danforth Center employs nearly 250 individuals from 24 countries with the mission of improving the human condition through plant science. Scientific teams focus research at the nexus of food, energy and the environment to improve the productivity and sustainability of agriculture.

McDonnell was the second chairman of the Danforth Center, following William Danforth, who founded the center in 1998.

On Friday, Chancellor Tom George also extended an offer to cover full tuition to the participating students who enroll at UMSL, and the STARS program will cover book fees up to $750 and an undergraduate research budget of $1,500.

The graduates of the 2019 STARS program are:

Affton High School: Lanie Pointer, Mia Silvestros
Clayton High School: Zacharia Hadjri, Katie He, Kevin Kotzbauer, James Malone, Krish Sardesai
Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience: Sabriya Jalal
Edwardsville High School: Natalie Loveridge
Fort Zumwalt South High School: Neha Amin, William He
Fort Zumwalt West High School: Lauren Baetje, Sarvesh Palaniappan
John Burroughs School: Sriya Bandi, Vinya Reddy
Kirkwood High School: Raiden DeKoter
Ladue Horton Watkins High School:
 Madalyn Abady, Hannah Abraham, Ayushya Ajmani, Abigail Bernstein, Connie Chen, Shelei Pan, Allison Rea, Katherine Shaw, Jacob Sheldon, Grace Steinback
Lafayette High School: Abhishek Ganesh, Dev Patel, Kshitij Sinha, Daniel Xu, Casey Uffelmann, Sindhu Bala
Maplewood-Richmond Heights/Homeschool: Kamau MuseMorris
Marquette High School: Ananya Arora, Gautami Kankipati, Sriya Kosaraju, Vyomesh Tripathi, Shalini Yagnik, Rachel Yue, Sriram Zassenhaus, Kevin Zhou
Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School: Nischal Aba, Megana Atluri, Nishanth Boppana, Tanay Chandak, Stanley Ding, Asha Dundoo, Boyu Liu, Aakarsh Rai, Jude Sorkin, Grihith Varaday, Jonathan Zhang, Aanjaneyaa Venkataraman
Mount Vernon Township High School: Daniel Song
Orchard Farm High School: Leah Lepore
Parkway Central High School: Andrew Lee, Varsha Murali, Mugdha Sinha, Charlie Wang
Parkway West High School: Mohammed Kuziez, Dawson Ren, Harjeev Singh, Jason Yang
Pomfret School: Bao Nguyen
Saint Francis High School: Nathan Moy
Saint Louis Priory School: Luke Braby, Sandeep Yanamala, Harrison Thome
St. Louis University High School: Matthew Friedrichs, Daniel Gatewood, Dominic Nguyen, Thomas Reilly, Nicholas Schulze, Sirius Song, David Thuita, Bryce Van Bree, Tong Wu
State College Area High School: Joy Liu
Troy Buchanan High School: Raegan Boettcher
Westminster Christian Academy: Anna Davidson, Seoyeon Jeong, Guangyan Li
Whitfield School: Madelyn Seemiller
Yeshivat Kadimah High School: Avid Adler, Aidin Yazdi

The research associates for the 2019 STARS program are:

Case Western Reserve University: Preston Willis
New York University: J.J. Adler
Rice University: John Bodnar
Saint Louis University: Trisha Nair
UMSL: Olivia Crowell
University of Missouri–Columbia: John Tschampel
Wheaton College: Lauren Jenkins

For more information about the STARS program, contact Mares at 314-516-6155 or

Sara Bell

Sara Bell