Carmel High School Senior Earns Top 40 Honors in Prestigious Science Competition

Rebecca MongeCarmel High School senior and emerging environmental climate researcher Rebecca Monge has been named as a Top 40 finalist in the 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

Monge was recognized by the Society for Science & the Public for her project “Polar Amplification in CMIP6 Models: Projections, Mechanisms, and Regional Patterns.” Monge’s research project was chosen from more than 1,700 applications spanning 611 high schools across the nation and 10 other countries.

Finalists are chosen based on their projects’ scientific rigor and the students’ potential to become world-changing scientists and leaders. Each finalist is awarded at least $25,000, with the top 10 awards ranging from $40,000 to $250,000.

Monge received the news of her Top 40 placement while on a run in the woods with her Cross Country teammates. She had previously been named to the Top 300 in the first round of selections.

“I am still very shocked about the news,” Monge said. “I had always known about the competition, but I knew it was really competitive. I wanted to have a great project to make an impact within the climate science community, so having my work recognized as a Top 40 project is an amazing cherry on the top!

Monge’s research uses computer programming to analyze and map climate-change data to report factors that are playing a role in temperature changes in Norway and Greenland. This study could help uncover new ways to combat Arctic warming.

Of course, Monge said, none of her success would have been possible without the Carmel Science Research (CSR) program and the opportunities it offered. Monge is part of the three-year program where students develop and carry out authentic scientific research.

An assignment in her sophomore year to connect with industry scientists opened the doors to her relationship with her current mentors, Dr. Lori Sentman and Dr. Aparna Radhakrishnan, and the research behind her top-ranked project. Sentman and Radhakrishnan are both affiliated with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory overseen by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Carmel Science Research program. It all goes back to one person responding to my email!” said Monge.

 Rebecca MongeRebecca’s mentors are incredible scientists, and I am very grateful and appreciative for the time and energy they spend working with her,” said Nicole Griffin, Science Research Coordinator for CHS, who has guided Monge in the program since her sophomore year. “The compassion and willingness of scientists like Rebecca’s mentors, play a key role in inspiring the next generation of scientists.”

For advancing to the Top 300, Monge and Carmel High School will both receive a $2,000 award.

“I waexcited that the school received money from this,” said Monge. “Science research, as well as the STEM departments, in general, has supported me since day one. I’m glad that I get to give back to these programs and help buy resources for other kids like me!”

“It is an immense opportunity for Rebecca, and our science research program, for her to be chosen as not only a Top 300 scholar, but a Top 40 finalist. She is now a part of an elite group of scientists,” said Griffin. “It is an honor for us to know she completed the research and applied to the talent search as part of our program!”

As a Top 40 finalist, Monge will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards during a virtual competition March 10-17. With acceptances coming in from top-ranked universities and her eye on a major in Earth and Planetary Science, Monge said award money from the competition will help make her dreams of becoming a climate research scientist a reality.

"We are so proud of Rebecca for her dedication and commitment to the work she has done in the Carmel High School research program over the past three years,” said Lauren Santabarbara, principal of Carmel High School. “Under the direction of Mrs. Griffin, Rebecca truly exemplifies what it means to dream, stay the course, and break through the barriers of those who came before her. Rebecca is destined to make incredible discoveries in science, and we are so honored that she started her career at Carmel High School!”

Monge’s admiration for her experience in the Carmel Science Research program is evident, and she proudly admits to trying to recruit every freshman she meets into the program. With endless support and guidance, and plenty of hands-on research opportunities, Rebecca and her CHS peers are already making great discoveries in the name of science.

“I want to encourage kids to start taking chances. I took a really big chance with this competition and it worked out,” said Monge. “I truly hope that kids know that no research project or dream is too big to achieve!”

See a full list of 2021 Regeneron Scholars