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Senior At N.H. High School Wins Top Prize In Science Talent Search

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The world of matchmaking won't have to rely on luck as much as math, and that's thanks to one very accomplished teenager.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

She was one of 40 students who reached the finals of a prestigious STEM competition. STEM - that's the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. It's run by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and the Society for Science. And they announced their winners last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And the first place winner and the recipient of a $250,000 award from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., Yunseo Choi.

MARTÍNEZ: Eighteen-year-old Yunseo Choi nabbed the top prize for playing theoretical matchmaker, using algorithms. Now, to be more precise, matching algorithms. Think of a matchmaking tool for couples. So instead of matching a finite number of people, Choi figured out how to pair an infinite number of potential couples. The idea being that when your options are infinite, your matched date will likely be better suited for you.

YUNSEO CHOI: So essentially I studied these stable matchings but in the context of the infinite matching market where instead of matching a finite set of men to another finite set of women, we're matching an infinite number of men to an infinite number of women.

INSKEEP: Beyond dating apps, Choi's algorithms have real-world applications. They can match organ donors to recipients and match medical school applicants to rotations.

CHOI: These algorithms and policies that are derived from the study of matching theory has so many useful applications. Usually mathematics, there's a lot of abstraction. You're thinking about things that can be implemented or be useful in many, many years to come. But matching theory compared to that was much more tangible and, like, practically useful.

INSKEEP: Now, not only did Choi advance the field of economic theory this year, but she's also learned to be a night owl.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, she had to be. Since her school moved to online learning during the pandemic, she's been living in South Korea while attending her New Hampshire high school, which means she basically worked out this whole thing at night because of the time difference.

CHOI: OK, it maybe made me more productive. I live in Seoul right now, and it's so loud during the day.

INSKEEP: Yunseo Choi, this year's winner of the Regeneron Science Talent Search, will be attending Harvard in the fall. She matched.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVOCATIV'S "VESPER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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