Rising to the top

CHS senior earns spot in prestigious national science competition

Reesab Pathak is making quite a name for himself in science.

For the past year and a half, he worked with an OHSU research team to better understand HIV, and later co-authored a study published in the Journal of Immunology. He has also presented his findings, which include a potentially effective HIV vaccine, at various high school science competitions.

But then came the real icing on the cake: On Jan. 21, Pathak, a 16-year-old senior at Camas High School, learned that he was one of 40 finalists from across the United States selected for the Intel Science Talent Search 2015. It is considered the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college competition, and required a 20 page application, research paper, high grades and letters of recommendation.

“I really wasn’t expecting too much,” he said. “Washington and Oregon typically don’t get great representation in this contest. I thought maybe I had a shot at being a semi-finalist, but not a finalist. When I got the phone call, I was in a state of shock. I didn’t have any words for it.”

As a finalist, Pathak will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. from March 5 to 11, where he will undergo a rigorous judging process in hopes of taking home one of three $150,000 awards. Finalists will also receive a $7,500 award from the Intel Foundation. In all, $1 million in prizes will be awarded.

The trip includes a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, as well as the opportunity to meet with notable scientists, display their work publicly and undergo final judging to determine awards.

“Intel invests in engineering, math and science education to support the next generation of innovators, who will create the products and services to enrich our daily lives,” said Justin Rattner, president of the Intel Foundation. “This year’s finalists – who are engaged in leading-edge scientific research and the creation of new technology to address global challenges such as renewable energy, cyber security and infectious diseases – prove that with the right education and resources, young people can indeed change the world.”

Pathak is the first student from CHS to be named a finalist in the Intel competition.

“It’s humbling to have one of our students in the Math, Science and Technology program selected for this honor,” said teacher Sam Greene. “We’d like to think that we’ve played a small part in helping guide and facilitate his growth in some of the work he’s done, but in reality we’ve mostly just helped create an infrastructure for him to be successful and then stood on the sidelines cheering for him as he’s taken it upon himself to do the necessary hard work. He’s a singularly driven, brilliant student, one who has among the strongest intrinsic drives to succeed that I’ve ever witnessed.”

Added teacher Kimberly Newman, “His burning desire to understand the intricacies of his research and the skills that he has learned in Dr. Sacha’s lab at OHSU has overflowed in his work with the younger students in our program. It is not uncommon to see Reese working with our students after school.”

Pathak is excited to travel to Washington, D.C., and share his work on a potential vaccine for HIV with other young scientists and established professionals.

“It definitely feels surreal,” he said. “It’s just now setting in that this is actually happening. It is amazing.”

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