2014 SIEMENS COMPETITION IN MATH, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Region 5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Finalists INDIVIDUAL COMPETITORS ANDREW LUO 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. ZAIXING SHI 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, Tennessee) “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 them.” 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. MOLLY ZHANG 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 Theranostics 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. HYUNSOO CHUNG 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. ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ 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. 2014 SIEMENS COMPETITION IN MATH, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Region 5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Finalists TEAM COMPETITORS 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-Î² 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. MAHIMA SHAH 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. RUBY GUO 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. JONATHAN CHAN 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. MICHAEL SEAMAN 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. DEVORAH SAFFERN 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. JULIE VAUGHN 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. ARUN SONI 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 students.” 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. KWANGMYUNG CHOI 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. RUSSELL CHARNOFF 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. LILY XU 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. SIMANTINI MITRA-BEHURA 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 engineer. BRANDON ALSTON 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.
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