Local high schooler wins $25,000 award for research project done at UWM

Milwaukee high school senior Amogh Bhatnagar has been named as a top 40 finalist in the national Regeneron Science Talent Search competition for 2020. Bhatnagar, son of Amit Bhatnagar, UWM associate professor of business, was awarded $25,000 for a health care cost comparison model he created that uses data science.

Madhusudan Dey, UWM associate professor of biological sciences, was Amogh’s mentor on the project.

Amogh Bhatnagar

The Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors, celebrates the novel discoveries of young scientists who are bringing a fresh perspective to significant global challenges.

For his research project, Amogh created a data science model to compare two surgical procedures for the same medical condition: open appendectomy and laparoscopic appendectomy.

Using a nationwide database, Amogh showed that patients with laparoscopic surgery on average spent less time in the hospital than patients undergoing traditional surgery but paid $3,629 more for their procedures. Amogh’s model showed the recovery time is only a half a day shorter for laparoscopic surgery, prompting the question of whether the extra expense is worthwhile.

Madhusudan Dey

While demonstrated with appendicitis, this method can be used to find the most cost-effective treatment for any disease.

Amogh, a student at University School of Milwaukee, became interested in the Affordable Care Act during the 2016 presidential election, says his father. While studying the legislation, Amogh discovered that many diseases have more than one treatment and doctors often disagree on which one to use. The law itself made an appeal for more research to determine the most cost-efficient treatment for every disease.

The finalists were chosen from nearly 2,000 applications from 659 high schools in 49 states. The top 10 finalists received awards ranging from $40,000 to $250,000. Finalists were evaluated for their research projects, and for exceptional scientific and mathematical knowledge, problem-solving abilities and potential as future scientific leaders.

The talent search, which launched in 1942, is a program of Society for Science and the Public, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding scientific literacy and scientific research.

Last year, Amogh won $1,500 at the larger Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, where high school students compete in 21 categories. He won second place in the biochemistry category.

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