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Alexandria Student Uses Music in Cutting-Edge Research 

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology student Victoria Graf was named a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2020.

“Victoria Graf is a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2020.”

Alexandria, VA – Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology student Victoria Graf was named a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2020, the oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition in the nation.

Victoria’s interest in science started early and grew quick as she shared, “In elementary I started noticing that I was interested in scientific concepts and a scientific approach to understanding the world around us and this world we live in.

I remember one particular experience in neuroscience specifically, which is one of the fields my research is in. It was my first sheep dissection. I was actually at a summer camp and we dissected a sheep’s brain and I was fascinated. I looked at this strange slimy blob and thought, “How does it think? How does the brain come up with these complex ideas and emotions that we feel and experience? We understand so little about the brain, which is our source of knowledge.”

Victoria investigated the effect of familiarity and musical training on the interaction between the complexities of music and neurological response for her Regeneron Science Talent Search behavioral and social sciences project.

Music and NeuroScience

“Music can be tied to neuroscience. When I first started researching, I found that there weren’t that many studies done regarding how we perceive music and its special attributes.

It’s interesting in how music gets used in therapy. You can use music from a patient’s childhood. Music is so powerful with aid to memory, communication, and language.”

Using electroencephalography (EEG), music stimuli and participant data from a Stanford University study, Victoria measured EEG responses to music and how they were affected by the participants’ musical background. She found that a musical stimulus, when tailored to a listener’s musical experience, could stimulate higher-level brain activity.

Victoria believes her research could lead to low-cost treatment for disorders associated with low-complexity brain activity, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Regeneron Nationwide Talent Search Started in 1942

Started in 1942 as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, the Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS) recognizes the nation’s most promising young scientists who are developing ideas that could solve society’s most urgent challenges.

Each year, nearly 1,900 students enter the Regeneron STS, submitting original research in critically important scientific fields of study. Unique among high school competitions, the Regeneron STS focuses on identifying, inspiring, and engaging the most promising scientists among the nation’s high school seniors.

When Victoria found out she was selected as a finalist she was empowered by the honor saying, “When I first heard I was surprised, a very happy-surprised. It was like receiving an unexpected present or a surprise birthday party. After the initial surprise that turned into excitement because this allows me to bring forward music and what it can do in the medical and scientific fields.”

She continued, “Most people have the vaguest ideas of what music can offer in those respects and they may have heard or read something in a news article but don’t have the scientific background to understand the possibilities.”

Postponed from its original date in March, the finals week competition for the 40 finalists will take place virtually for the first time in its 78-year history. The public attended the virtual Exhibition of Projects on July 25 and the winners award ceremony was on July 29, 2020.

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