Buchholz student wins $100,000 in national search 

Buchholz High School senior Nathan Wei earned $100,000 for his fourth place finish in the Regeneron Science Talent Search.
Buchholz High School senior Nathan Wei earned $100,000 for his fourth place finish in the Regeneron Science Talent Search.
Courtesy of Society Communications Team

Buchholz senior Nathan Wei earned fourth place in the Regeneron Science Talent Search for his research on plastic polymers, winning $100,000 for his college education. 

Regeneron announced the top finalists on Tuesday night, and Wei said in an interview that the whole process had been hectic and exciting since learning he’d secured a spot in the top 40.  

Wei found out he was a finalist during an after-school meeting for Future Business Leaders in America. He quickly left the room when a call came from Washington, D.C. He knew it had to be the contest. 

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“I was really excited,” Wei recalled. “I don’t think I’m the person to jump out or scream for enjoy.” 

Wei began researching plastic polymers going into his junior year, and he got a position at a UF polymer lab. His work focuses on sustainably creating strong and durable polymers that can also be recycled.  

Wei said he hopes to continue some of the work in college where he plans to major in chemistry. He’s received an acceptance letter from Princeton University and is waiting to hear back from Harvard University. 

“His research on polymers has the potential to advance our ability to recycle durable plastics and improve sustainability practices across industries,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science. “We are eager to see what else he will accomplish.”     

Wei said the Regeneron search almost didn’t begin. Because of the size of the search, Wei said he didn’t think he had a shot. Finally, his father convinced him to fill out the application a week before the deadline.  

“So, I was kind of like, why am I doing this? There’s not much of a point. But I guess there actually was,” Wei said. 

Another Floridian also earned a top 10 finish. Ella Pilacek from Oviedo got $70,000 for her work on non-native honeybees. She researched ways to teach these bees to pollinate endangered native species. 

Wei recently earned finalist status in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program and was among eight students in the Alachua County School District to be selected as a candidate for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Last April, Wei advanced to the international MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge with the Buchholz team. 

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