Five questions with Victor Cai, the 2nd place winner of the 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search

This past spring, Victor Cai came in second place and won $175,000 in the 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search. Victor, of Orefield, Pennsylvania, won for creating a short-range, narrow-bandwidth radar that calculates distance by transmitting two signals at different frequencies and then measures the phase difference between them. This short-range distance-sensing radar could one day help the visually impaired navigate spaces in their homes. In an interview with Technical.ly Philadelphia, Victor shared that he was moved to develop his project after his karate teacher of 11 years slowly lost his sight due to a rare eye disease. “I was eager to do something for him,” he said. Another application of Victor’s project includes the navigation of autonomous vehicles.

After his big win, Victor told the Society, “Being selected in the top 3 in the nation at the most prestigious high school science competition by judges who are experts and visionaries in their fields has boosted my confidence in my ability to use science to change the world.”

This fall, Victor started his collegial studies at Harvard University where he is focusing on electrical engineering and looking into prospective labs where he could continue his research. He is also working on a project to build a sumo-bot with the Harvard Undergraduate Robotics Club.

Victor wants to encourage other young innovators to participate in the Science Talent Search and STEM fields as well. In order to inspire the next generation of scientists, Victor says, “Don’t be afraid to pursue ideas no one else has tried before. It is at these frontiers that the research really starts. Pursue what inspires you, find out where others have failed, and incorporate new perspectives that could shed light on useful insights and breakthroughs.”

Let’s hear more from Victor below.

Which sci-fi advancement do you wish we had by now?
Although likely impossible, I’d love to see the Alcubierre warp drive become a reality. I’ve always been fascinated by the human capacity for imagination in striving to bend the laws of the universe and push the boundaries of what we once thought was possible. 

Which scientist – alive or deceased – would you want to solve scientific mysteries with and why?
With my passion in electrical engineering, I would love to work alongside Thomas Edison. I admire Edison’s perseverance and his drive to improve society through his inventions. I hope to become a resourceful and creative engineer like Edison who is talented at turning ideas into useful applications. 

What would you invent if you had all the resources in the world?
I would invent the Dyson sphere! Once we create efficient and sustainable solar panel and energy storage technology, a Dyson sphere would provide enough energy to propel us to the higher civilization levels of the Kardashev scale. 

What about your experience at STS surprised you most?
I was surprised how much I grew intellectually from meeting such a diverse array of bright science minds, from finalists to judges to guest speakers and beyond. I have come to appreciate new perspectives on the power of science to change lives. 

What was your most memorable experience from STS this year?
My most memorable experience was our fireside chat with George Yancopoulos. I especially enjoyed huddling into a little half circle around George, which really felt like a personalized chat. George is such an inspiration to me, and I have taken in many useful pieces of advice and wisdom from him on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to career to college to leading a motivated and fulfilling life. 

The Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023 application is now open to high school seniors. Apply by Wednesday, November 9 in order for a chance to win a top prize of $250,000: https://sciencetalentsearch.smapply.org/

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