Region 5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Regional Finalists
Lexington High School, Lexington, Massachusetts
HOMETOWN: Lexington, Massachusetts
PROJECT: Structural Insight into the Ultrasensitivity of the Newly
Developed Calcium Indicator GCaMP6
FIELD: Biochemistry
MENTOR: Feng Shao, Supervising Scientist, National Institute of Biological
Sciences (Beijing, China)
“I love the unpredictable nature of research. You never know when
something might work, or when a discovery might be of great use one day.”
Having read an article in Scientific American which detailed the creation of new tools for brain research
using only light, Andrew became very interested in this subject and took a deeper look into it. The result
was his project, in which Andrew solved the crystal structure of the super sensitive calcium indicator,
GCaMP6, so that the molecular mechanism underlying its superior properties could be understood.
Andrew is a senior at Lexington High School in Lexington, Massachusetts, and enjoys computer science
and the sense of accomplishment it brings him. He won first prize in the poster presentation at the
Junior Science and Humanities Symposia, and first prize in Physics Beijing’s Math/Chemistry/Physics
Competition. He participates in the Youth Explorations in Science program at several schools in his area,
working to introduce science to younger students and help them in their projects. An avid runner,
Andrew participates in his school’s cross country team, and enjoys table tennis. He hopes to work one
day in a career where he can answer complex neuroscience questions by combining biology and
computer science.
School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee
HOMETOWN: Nashville, Tennessee
PROJECT: Targeted MerTK Inhibition Improves Response of Braf-Mutant
Melanomas to Vemurafinib
FIELD: Biology
MENTOR: Dr. Rebecca S. Cook, Vanderbilt University (Nashville,
“I love the ability math, science, or technology have to help other people. I
love that math and science have saved lives and simultaneously improved
For his project, Zaixing discovered a potentially more effective combination treatment targeting a
different part of the Ras/Raf cell signaling pathway involved in cell survival that may improve survival
rates for metastatic melanoma patients.
Zaixing is a senior at Nashville’s School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, and his favorite subject at
school is mathematics. He has won College Book Awards, and he sat 1st Chair in the Mid-State Gold
Band (Alto Saxophone). He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Boy Scouts of America, and
the Model UN, and he enjoys playing soccer.
Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, Maryland
HOMETOWN: Rockville, Maryland
PROJECT: Temporal-Spatially Transformed Synthesis of Novel Gold
Bellflowers with Ultrahigh Photo-Thermal Conversion Efficiency for Cancer
FIELD: Biochemistry
MENTORS: Dr. Xiaoyuan Chen; Senior Investigator; National Institutes of
Health (Bethesda, Maryland)
“I believe that students must be encouraged to pursue math and science at a young age. Interesting
demonstrations and classes should be provided so young children are motivated to learn the subjects.”
When Molly first began working with her mentor (Dr. Xiaoyuan Chen), he assigned her the project of
experimenting with the synthesis of gold nanomaterial through a triphasic system. Ultimately, this
became her project: the synthesis of gold bellflowers - gold nanostructures that show potential for
implementation in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Molly is a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland and cites biology as her
favorite subject at school, as it serves as an extremely important foundation for her pursuits in
biomedical sciences. She is an AP Scholar with Distinction, and a National Merit Semifinalist. She
tutors math (including calculus) at her school. She plays volleyball (Girls and Co-ed), guitar, and piano,
and is the re-founder for Codi’s Hats. She is member of the National Honor Society. She hopes to work
as a scientist one day in the future.
Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, Maryland
HOMETOWN: Rockville, Maryland
PROJECT: Custom-Tailored Therapy: Discovery of New Molecular and
Clinicopathological Markers of Prognosis Using Tissue Microarray
Technology in Cervical Cancer
FIELD: Biology
MENTORS: Hanbyoul Cho, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gangnam Severance Hospital, Yonsei
University College of Medicine (Seoul, South Korea)
“The most challenging part of my research project was the data interpretation. I had to understand the
meaning behind my raw data, find potential explanations for certain patterns, and prove my hypothesis.
It was a most fortunate and special experience to be able to share my thoughts with open-minded and
professionally trained lab members.”
For her project, Hyunsoo sought to find specific markers at early stages in cancer so that health
professionals can make the decision-making process of treatment selection more efficient, ultimately by
improving prognostic dysplasia screening.
Hyunsoo is a senior at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland, and her favorite subject at
school is science. She is a National Merit Semifinalist and AP Scholar with Honor. She is the first author
of the publication ‘Down regulation of ERp57 expression is associated with poor prognosis in early-stage
cervical cancer.’ Hyunsoo enjoys speed skating, and placed third, overall, at the 2013 Short Track Age
Class Nationals competition. She volunteers at Brookside Gardens Butterfly Exhibit. She hopes to work
as an oncologist in the future.
The Potomac School, McLean, Virginia
HOMETOWN: McLean, Virginia
PROJECT: S1P/S1P1 Signaling Pathway is Necessary for Canine Hemangiosarcoma
Cell Growth and Viability
FIELD: Biochemistry
MENTOR: Dr. Jaime Modiano, Principal Investigator, The Masonic Cancer Research
Center at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
“I enjoy the creative aspect of developing a project, and the tenacity needed in order
to overcome various challenges within the scientific field.”
Following the death of her Golden Retriever from cancer, Ashley developed a keen interest in
researching treatments and cures for cancer. Ultimately, this interest turned to research and her
project, where she identified an important biolipid-signaling pathway necessary for canine
hemangiosarcoma cell growth and survival, and found a potential FDA-approved drug to block that
pathway. Ultimately, this study may lead to new treatments for canine hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive
cancer than kills millions of dogs.
Ashley is a senior at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia. Her favorite subject in school is English
because she loves the challenge of interpreting literature and learning new meanings of famous works.
She received a funded grant for her independent research project, and was accepted into the Science
Engineering Research Center at her school, where she also volunteers as a biology and math tutor. She
is a member of the Model UN, and routinely brings donations to Nicaragua, her father’s homeland, to
support a school near Managua. She participates in sailing and yoga, plays piano, and performs with
hand bells groups at school. She hopes to one day work as a veterinarian, researcher, or writer.
Region 5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Regional Finalists
MAHIMA SHAH, High Technology High School, Lincroft, New Jersey
RUBY GUO, High Technology High School, Lincroft, New Jersey
PROJECT: Surface Effects Mediate Self-Assembly of Amyloid-β Peptides
FIELD: Biochemistry
MENTOR: Yi-Chih Lin, Graduate Student, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
For their project, Mahima and Ruby found a novel method involving variations in spin-coating and
incubation time to study amyloidal aggregation, which is linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
HOMETOWN: Englishtown, New Jersey
“The thing I like most about math, science, and technology are that they
are at the forefront of developing industries. They are essential in both
theoretical and practical aspects of various fields, and this real-world
application of concepts interests me.”
Mahima’s favorite subject in school is biology. She is a chapter officer for
the Technological Student Association, and was awarded 3rd Place in the
Jersey Shore Science Fair for Environmental Research. Mahima sits on
the Executive Board for the Young Jains of America, is president of her
school’s Key Club, and recently completed 10 years of advanced Bharatanatyam training at a local dance
academy. She aspires to work in a career that combines both science and business, ideally working
within neuroscience research.
HOMETOWN: Matawan, New Jersey
“Research is not as straightforward and easy as school likes us to believe.
It’s not just one question with one answer. There’s no sheet with
procedures neatly laid out. There is nothing elegant about the arduous
process of research, but ultimately, it’s incredibly rewarding. “
Ruby was awarded 2nd Place in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge, and 2nd
place in the International Gulen Youth Institute Platform Essay Contest.
She is Co-Founder of a STEM program at Middletown Public Library, a
member of the Technology Student Association Animatronics, and a
National High School Journal of Science Peer Reviewer. She enjoys running and participates in cross
country. She hopes to work in biological engineering research and development one day.
JONATHAN CHAN, Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, New Jersey
MICHAEL SEAMAN, Home School, Short Hills, New Jersey
PROJECT: On the Distribution of Discriminants Over a Finite Field
FIELD: Mathematics
MENTOR: Dr. Keith Conrad, Math Department, University of Connecticut (Storrs, Connecticut)
For their project, Jonathan and Michael proved a theorem about the distribution of discriminants of
monic polynomials in finite fields.
HOMETOWN: Closter, New Jersey
“I believe many bright young math students are daunted by math research
because they believe it might be out of the scope of their abilities. It takes
success stories like that of my group to motivate younger students to solve
open problems.”
Jonathan was awarded a bronze medal in the World Math Team
competition in Beijing, as well as received 4th place in the team contest at
the same event. He founded a club at his school dedicated to teaching
number theory. He is an avid lacrosse enthusiast, playing as a starter on
his school’s varsity team, and is a member of Relay for Life. He hopes to
one day work as a Mathematics Professor or a mathematics researcher at institutions such as the
Institute for Advanced Study or MSRI.
HOMETOWN: Short Hills, New Jersey
“I love the beauty of math: the deep connections between different and
seemingly unrelated areas of math.”
Michael is a 2014 AP National Scholar, a 2013-14 Mathematical Olympiad
Summer Program attendee, and a Team Selection Test Participant for the
2015 USA IMO team. He attended two Mathematical Olympiad Summer
Programs (2013-14). He is an avid runner and enjoys learning obscure
words in his spare time. He hopes to work as a mathematician one day.
DEVORAH SAFFERN, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, Teaneck, New Jersey
JULIE VAUGHN, Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego, California
PROJECT: Investigating the Physical Antibacterial Properties of Graphene, Graphene Composites, and
Phase Separated Polymer Blends
FIELD: Engineering
MENTOR: Dr. John Jerome, Chair of Department of Mathematics, Suffolk County Community College
(Selden, New York)
For their project, Devorah and Julie developed surfaces out of polymers and graphene that could
potentially reduce the spread of bacterial disease by physically killing bacteria.
HOMETOWN: Bergenfield, New Jersey
“I like that different STEM fields are mixing together. Universities that
offer, for example, a combination of degrees in computer science and
business allow people in non-scientific fields to use STEM.”
A senior at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, Devorah was a finalist
in the Gildor Family Projects and Inventions Competition, as well as in the
Ulpaniada International Mathematics Competition. She tutors other
students in mathematics and science at her school, and participates in
Mock Trial. She aspires to work as an engineer in the future.
HOMETOWN: San Diego, California
“I was very drawn to the interdisciplinary aspect of the project, and its
potential far-reaching applications. A bacteria-killing surface could save
lives all over the world.”
Julie is an AP National Scholar and AIME Qualifier. She founded a program
called Ignite Science Outreach, which works to increase STEM interest and
access through hands-on demonstrations for students attending
underprivileged elementary schools, as well as an annual inventions
contest, and online educational resources. She participates in her school’s
varsity tennis team, sings, and plays the ukulele, piano and violin. She
hopes to one day be an entrepreneur or researcher in an interdisciplinary field.
ARUN SONI, Staples High School, Westport, Connecticut
KWANGMYUNG CHOI, Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego, California
RUSSELL CHARNOFF, Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, Cedarhurst, New York
PROJECT: Synthesis and Characterization of Graphene Nanoparticle Infused Polyethylene
Nanocomposite Material for Enhanced Mechanical and Conductivity Properties
FIELD: Chemistry
MENTOR: Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, Professor, Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, New York)
For their project, Arun, Kwangmyung, and Russell created a nanocomposite with increased thermal
conductivity and mechanical properties that could be used to improve heaters and air conditioners.
HOMETOWN: Westport, Connecticut
“I was inspired by Professor Miriam Rafailovich, who is able to communicate
complicated scientific concepts to high school students like me. I aspire to be a
professor one day and hope to do half a good job as she does with her
Arun is a junior at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut. He is an AP
Scholar with Distinction, and won first place in Creative Board Breaking at the
2013 National Taekwondo Championships in Chicago. He started the Westport
Chapter of the Fairfield Enrichment Club, which was recently recognized as the
best performing math club in Connecticut. He teaches 12 younger children math and science each
week. He hopes to work as a professor one day, with business interests.
HOMETOWN: San Diego, California
“Our most surprising experience was finding that our material was actually
stronger than the original polymer- (a fact) contrary to previous literature
on polymer nanocomposite material. It was a very exciting moment.”
A senior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, California, Kwangmyung
was awarded the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award and is a
National AP Scholar. He is President of his school’s Academic Support, and
often helps other students with math, chemistry, biology, and physics after
school. He also teaches math at a school for children with mental
disabilities. He enjoys playing basketball, and hopes to work as a chemistry
researcher one day.
HOMETOWN: Woodmere, New York
“I love math because it makes sense to me logically, and it's amazing to think
in a completely different language- numbers. Science amazes me because it
helps us better appreciate the world around us; how everything we see is so
complex and wonderful.”
Russell was awarded the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award, and is
Co-President of his school’s Math Team. He is President of his school’s
National Honors Society chapter, and is a National Merit Scholarship SemiFinalist. He tutors younger students in math and chemistry, and is the cofounder for the Israel Advocacy Club at his school. He volunteers at the
Friendship Circle, an organization that helps young children with disabilities, is an avid thespian, and
enjoys playing volleyball and tennis. He aspires to work as a chemical engineer one day.
LILY XU, Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin, Texas
SIMANTINI MITRA-BEHURA, Debakey High School for Health Professions, Houston, Texas
BRANDON ALSTON, St. John’s School, Houston, Texas
PROJECT: Identifying DNA Methylation Patterns in Breast Cancer Cell Line Epigenomic Data
FIELD: Biology
MENTORS: Dr. Shuying Sun, Assistant Professor, Mathematics Department, Texas State University
(San Marcos, Texas); Dr. Ziliang Zong, Assistant Professor, Computer Science Department, Texas State
University (San Marcos, Texas)
For their project, Lily, Simantini, and Brandon discovered new patterns in DNA methylation patterns that
could aid in the identification of breast cancer that could help early detection and treatment of cancer.
HOMETOWN: Austin, Texas
“What always attracted me to STEM is studying the world…recent
developments in medicine, particularly emerging fields such as bioinformatics
and epigenomics apply STEM to our world directly.”
Lily placed third for chemistry in the 2014 Intel ISEF competition, and is
captain for her school’s Science Olympiad team (through 2015). She is an
accomplished pianist, having competed both nationally and internationally in
both solo and group arrangements. She participated as a counselor in 2014’s
Honors Summer Math Camp, and continues to tutor other students at her
school in math and science. She hopes to work one day as a medical researcher and professor.
HOMETOWN: Houston, Texas
“The key to student encouragement is hiring enthusiastic teachers who can
inspire enthusiasm in their students. Teachers have an incredible influence
that can change students' paths.”
A senior at Debakey High School for Health Professions, Simantini is a
National Merit Semifinalist and Senior Class President at her school. She
founded, and has led, her school’s robotics club for the past three years.
She tutors middle school students in algebra, participated in the MS150
Bike Ride, bikes, and plays soccer. She enjoys Odissi Classical Dance, and
plays both piano and violin. She aspires to a career as a materials science
HOMETOWN: Houston, Texas
“My most challenging experience working on the project was learning two
new coding languages. I had some prior coding experience but in a
different language. I put in additional hours to improve myself with and I
am proud of my coding knowledge with the new languages.”
Brandon is a National AP Scholar with Honor, president of his schools’ AA
Affinity Group, and 9th grade representative for his school’s Student Affairs
Council. An avid volleyball enthusiast, he led his school’s Junior Varsity
volleyball team to a first place win at the recent JV Volleyball Houston Cup
Tournament as the team captain. He tutors fellow students in chemistry,
biology, and mathematics. He is a Peer Leader for the Mayors Youth Council, and plays viola in his
school’s orchestra. He hopes to work one day in a career in biomedical engineering research.