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Neel Moudgal

Saline High School
Saline, Michigan

About Neel Moudgal

Neel developed a computer model that can rapidly and reliably predict the structure of various RNA molecules to facilitate the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutic drugs for diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases and viral infections.

Using Unassigned NMR Chemical Shifts to Model RNA Secondary Structure

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Neel Moudgal, 17, of Saline, developed a computer model that can predict the structure of various RNA molecules to make it easier to diagnose and treat disease for his Regeneron Science Talent Search computational biology and bioinformatics project. Existing tools predicting RNA structure use measurements of the magnetic vibration of atoms known as “chemical shift data” collected from a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. These methods rely on assigning chemical shift values to each atom in a given molecule, which sometimes proves impossible. Neel’s computational model contains a library of possible shapes for a given RNA molecule based on its atomic structure. A statistical method assigns weights to each structure in the library, favoring structures that closely resemble experimental data. By using 2D histograms for reweighting, his model eliminates the need to assign chemical shift data.

At Saline High School, Neel is captain of the varsity quiz bowl team, a programmer for the robotics team and a teacher’s assistant for special needs children. The son of Varsha and Vivek Moudgal, he is a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Neel Moudgal 2023 STS Finalist

Beyond the Project

Neel is first author of an article on his work in Journal of Physical Chemistry A, and worked on a review paper on oxygen evolution reaction electrocatalysis for carbon dioxide reduction.

FUN FACTS: Neel has been an avid rock and mineral collector since age six and has hundreds of unique specimens from around the world. He credits studying minerals for his love of chemistry and geology.

Illustration of 2023 STS finalist Neel Moudgal by Amy Wike
Illustration by Amy Wike