Dasia Taylor, a senior at Iowa City West High School has been named a Regeneron Science Talent Scholar after her development of color-changing sutures to detect infection.
After a year of research, Taylor is working on getting her sutures patented and looks towards the sutures being used in developing countries where they can save lives and money.
Her dream of becoming a surgeon received a major booster few years ago after being gifted a suture kit for Christmas, she swung into action to develop her interest.
Taylor, a top-40 finalist in the National Regeneron Science Talent Search, Iowa City West senior said before her junior year, her only other experience participating in a science fair was during early elementary school.
“Well, I had an experience. If you count the first-grade science fair,” Taylor said. “We had to come up with a project, and I chose M&M’s and the probability of which color would be in the bag.”
Taylor is already a high flyer with an impressive resume including presenting at Harvard to discuss racial equity and becoming involved in numerous committees throughout Iowa City. Most recently,
as a top-40 finalist among 1,760 other entrants in Regeneron’s Science Talent Search, she was awarded a $25,000 scholarship .
Taylor’s science journey notably began when her AP Chemistry teacher, Carolyn Walling, told her class about an opportunity to participate in science fairs across the state.
“Dasia jumped right on the idea. She was super excited about it,” Walling said. “Every time I meet with a student that wants to do a science fair, I hope they’ll say something I’ll know a lot about so I can be of greater assistance. But Dasia said surgery, and I thought, ‘How in the world am I going to help her?’”
Walling encouraged her curiosity and provided Taylor with different articles to guide her search for a surgery-related project. After reading one of the articles and completing internet research, Taylor said she realized what type of project she wanted to pursue.
“In the articles I read, so much technology was used to figure out the basic principles of wound healing,” Taylor said. “The equity part of me knew that those who are disproportionately dying because of surgical site infections wouldn’t be able to afford sutures with electrical currents.”
Taylor used the information she learned about skin and wound acidity to create surgical sutures that change colors when exposed to a beet indicator, revealing a difference in pH levels.
She won the Junior Science and Humanities Seminar and placed second at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa. At the Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair, Taylor took home multiple awards and most notably qualified for the International Science Fair sponsored by Regeneron.
After earning a finalist position at the International Science Fair, which was later canceled because of COVID-19, Taylor entered her project into the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition.
Since securing a position as a top-40 finalist, Taylor is preparing for the competition’s second phase. The top prize is a $250,000 scholarship.
While it takes hours into her research for the Regeneron Science Talent Search alongside other extracurriculars, Taylor said she is realizing the importance of rest.
“I’m learning how to sleep,” she said. “I’m learning to take naps when I’m tired, and that has never really happened before.”
Taylor said what sustains her most is the ability to change the lives of others.
“Knowing that what I’m doing will not only help me, but also helps the community at large, is enough to keep me going,” she said.