SHS Senior Neel Moudgal to Receive Prestigious Award at MIT

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Saline High School Senior Neel Moudgal will be traveling to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this weekend to receive the prestigious Davidson award, along with twenty other recipients from around the country. Moudgal will be presented with a $25,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute for his project, “Unassigned NMR Chemical Shifts to Model RNA Secondary Structure.”

Moudgal, 16, began working on the project with Dr. Aaron Frank at the University of Michigan in May 2020, and the paper which detailed his work was published in April 2022.

“My project essentially focused on improving current methods to predict the structure of RNA molecules,” Moudgal said. “While the sequence of bases in an RNA molecule is important, it is really the structure of the RNA that provides insight into how it performs catalytic and regulatory activities. My project focused on creating a computational method that used raw, easily obtainable, experimental data to rapidly predict the structure of an RNA molecule with high accuracy.”

His project findings have the potential to allow researchers to develop novel treatments for pathogens such as SARS- CoV-2, and other viruses. In addition, it could significantly reduce costs relating to pharmaceutical development and patient treatment.

“I was thrilled to learn that I had been chosen as a 2022 Davidson Fellow and that the committee deemed my work strong enough to merit the award,” he said. “In years past, I have felt deep admiration for the accomplishments of the previous Davidson Fellows, and it was especially meaningful for me to become part of that community.”

Moudgal has been captain of the SHS Varsity Quiz Bowl team, which traveled this year to Atlanta, Georgia to compete at nationals. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his family, reading, and collecting rocks, coins and stamps.

“I love to collect rocks and minerals. I’ve been a rock hound since the age of six. Collecting postage stamps is a hobby my grandfather introduced me to,” he said.

Moudgal has a bright future ahead, with plans to continue his studies.

“After graduation, I hope to double major in biophysics and statistics with the hopes of eventually becoming a physician scientist who performs lab-based biomedical research and has clinical experience to inform that research.”

Moudgal credits his parents for his academic success.

“I would like to add that none of my accomplishments would have been possible without my parents and their never-ending support. My parents have always inspired me to pursue my dreams, showed me that obstacles should not deter me, and have been my greatest cheerleaders.”

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