OPRFHS junior wins prestigious National BioGENEius Challenge

OPRFHS junior wins prestigious National BioGENEius Challenge

Maya Souden at the BioGENEius National Symposium held on April 28 at Portal Innovations in Chicago.

Oak Park and River Forest High School is proud to announce that junior Maya Souden won the Illinois BioGENEius Challenge and will move on to compete against winners from the U.S. and Canada in the international competition, beginning June 13 in San Diego, CA. The BioGENEius Challenge is the most prestigious high school science competition in the world for original research in biotechnology.

“To me, winning BioGENEius is, above all else, a validation that my work means something,” Souden said. “This whole project has been me trying to bring to life an idea I had. It took a lot of time and effort to turn that idea into something tangible, and it feels amazing to know that my work might be able to actually benefit the medical community somehow.”

Souden’s research involved the designing, prototyping, and testing of a new surgical device -- an inflatable cuff that can be wrapped around a blood vessel (e.g., the aorta) and inflated to compress the vessel, thus lowering blood flow. “This helps control bleeding during long surgeries, where completely clamping the aorta is dangerous,” Souden said.

Souden credits OPRFHS’ Investigative Research Design and Innovation (IRDI) class for preparing her for the competition.

“IRDI challenged me in every way a class possibly can,” Souden said. “I learned how to manage a greater workload, write better, read more critically, evaluate information, stick with an idea, modify my experimental plan over and over, visually and textually present information, and speak in front of a crowd.”

IRDI students spend the school year designing and implementing a unique research project to address a particular gap in published scientific research. They work collaboratively with expert mentors in their fields of research throughout the process.

“By the time we walk into a competition, we've spent so many hours on our projects that presenting it is second nature,” Souden said.

During her senior year at OPRFHS, Souden will take a break from research to begin college applications, focus on other classes, and put more time into clubs and her weekend job.

Post-graduation, she hopes to circle back to her research idea. “Right now, my top choice for college is the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering,” Souden said. “But no matter where I end up, I definitely see research being part of my life.”

For more information on the Biotechnology Institute BioGENEius Challenge, click here.