Coppell High School Senior Zach Vazhekatt won first place in the Plant Sciences Division of the Texas Science and Engineering Fair, which was hosted virtually by Texas A&M University earlier this month.

He will be advancing to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) to be held virtually in May. He is the first CISD student ever to advance to this international competition. 

Vazhekatt won for his entry, “The Longevity of Plant-Based Bioremediation in Water: An Investigation on the Longevity of the Flocculating Capabilities of Moringa oleifera Lam. Seed Extracts in Water Purification.”

He credits CHS science teachers Cathy Douglas and Holly Anderson for making participating in science fairs throughout his high school career engaging, thought-provoking and fun. 

“Mrs. Anderson was incredibly helpful this year with her advice and allowing me to use her testing equipment while learning at home,” Vazhekatt said. “I feel very blessed to be moving on to the ISEF, especially this year, because it was challenging to conduct all of my tests at home rather than in the lab.” 

What makes this accomplishment “awesome,” according to Anderson, is that this has been a four-year journey for Vazhekatt that personifies the CISD core value of redefining success. Vazhekatt started his freshman year working on a group science fair project with his brother, Tom, and friend Karthik Karuppiah. During Vazhekatt’s sophomore year, the group won second place at the state fair, and they were determined to make it to ISEF the next year, even though Tom was graduating. Last year during their junior year Vazehkatt and Karuppiah continued to add to their research and were set to go to the Texas Science and Engineering Fair when COVID-19 shut it down. This year, Vazhekatt competed on his own, because he used the project for his IB Biology Internal Assessment. 

“This was a group effort and shows that with a goal in mind, alongside perseverance, and hard work, it can lead to amazing achievements,” Anderson said. “This group’s determination and commitment helped them succeed.”

Vashekatt added, “I am excited to meet more peers and scientists in the research field around the world at the international competition next month. This experience has also inspired me to pursue research in college next year.” 

Anderson hopes that this is the first of many CISD students advancing in this competition in the future. 

“Participating in the science fair allows learners to grow in their passion for understanding the world and gives them skills that they will use and their everyday life for learning and problem solving,” she said. “I hope that Zach’s achievement will inspire more learners to participate in the science fair, which is open to all students, not only those who take science.”

Learn more and see winning entries at

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