WAYZATA — Wayzata High School students, along with their peers from across the state, were recently honored as Scholars of Distinction by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Twenty-seven Wayzata students received the distinction, which is the most students from a single school. A total of 52 students in the state were named Scholars of Distinction.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, Scholars of Distinction demonstrate that they have a mastery of a complex subject matter and apply their knowledge to a challenging project. Projects that are eligible are in the topics of leadership, mathematics, science, social studies and STEM.

The ceremony to honor the students was held on Saturday, May 18. Each student received a certificate and a medal from the Minnesota Department of Education, Dorothy Welch, who leads Wayzata Honors Mentor Connection, told Lakeshore Weekly News via email.

Most of the Wayzata students who were recognized for their accomplishments were part of the Honors Mentors Connection program, created by Welch around 15 years ago. Welch has brought the program to several schools in Minnesota and has spent the last three years at Wayzata teaching the program.

She is retiring this year after more than 60 years of teaching. The school held a party for her on Monday, May 20.

Students in the Honors Mentor Connection program reach out to prominent experts in the area of focus the students are looking to study and ask them for mentorship. With their mentors, the students create a project — the projects include engineering, medicine, design, marketing and business.

For many students, their Honors Mentor Connection projects are what they submit when applying to be Scholars of Distinction.

Medical projects

Abhishek Mahesh is a junior at Wayzata. He plans to go into the bio-medical field after high school, potentially looking at neuroscience. Mahesh’s project looked at delta tau 314, a toxic molecule, and its effect on Huntington’s disease with the hope of finding a way to combat the condition.

“This specific molecule has been previously linked to having elevated levels in Alzheimer’s patients and I wanted to see if there was that same increase in Huntington’s disease patients,” Mahesh said. “And through our research, we found there was indeed an increase in the delta tau 314 molecules in Huntington’s disease.”

Wayzata junior Saipraneeth Bajjuri plans to go into engineering or the medical field after high school. Bajjuri’s project looked at pharmaceuticals with a crystalline structure and the polymers that are added to them to make them more absorbable by the human body. Bajjuri tested several different polymers on a KTZ drug to see which polymer would make the pharmaceutical most efficient for humans.

Junior Sarayu Patturi said she plans to go to medical school and become a pediatrician. Patturi looked at an enzyme called G6PD and how it relates to cellular respiration and whether those with more G6PD are more likely to have certain conditions. She found that HIV patients tend to have more G6PD enzymes than non-HIV patients. Patturi hopes this might lead to a new way to treat the condition.

Technology projects

Junior Mehul Maheshwari said he plans to study computer science after high school. Maheshwari’s study looked at cyber sickness in virtual reality and how it relates to restricting the field of view. Currently, Maheshwari is waiting to get approval from the Institutional Review Board — an independent ethics committee — so he can run tests with human participants.

Junior Shreyas Chimnola plans to study either electrical or computer engineering. Chimnola’s study looked at communication in virtual reality. According to Chimnola, they are working on pilot testing and awaiting IRB approval to run experiments with human participants.

“Testing how effective different forms of technology are in a virtual environment,” Chimnola said. “The two methods we were testing are speech and wave points, using these pre-recorded speech messages and kind of like beacons that guide users to see if they can fulfill the requirement for sight recognition.”

A history of success

Welch says the Honors Mentors Connection program has a long history of creating successful students.

Natalia Poleryakhin was in the Honors Mentors Connection program two years ago and did an art project with a St. Paul-based animator. She currently has an internship with Warner Brothers, which she says directly stemmed from her project from the program that won that Teen Animation Festival International.

Poleryakhin returned to Wayzata to help celebrate Welch’s retirement, and has no doubt the Honors Mentors Connection students have a bright future.

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