2014 SIEMENS COMPETITION IN MATH, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Region 2: University of Texas at Austin Regional Finalists INDIVIDUAL COMPETITORS YUYAN MAI Memorial High School, Houston, TX HOMETOWN: Houston, TX PROJECT: Imaging Diamagnetic L-Lactate with Paramagnetic CEST Agents by MRI FIELD: Chemistry MENTOR: Dr. Andre Martins, Research Associate, University of Texas at Dallas (Dallas, Texas); Dr. A. Dean Sherry, Professor of Chemistry, University of Texas at Dallas (Dallas, Texas) “I like that math, science and technology are constantly evolving; there's always something new to discover, which I find really exciting.” Yuyan discovered an MRI contrast agent sensitive to the presence of lactate. This contrast agent holds the potential of making possible MR imaging of lactate concentration in tissues, thus creating a promising method for early tumor detection and diagnosis. Yuyan is the president of the National Art Honor Society, a math instructor at Mathnasium, a volunteer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a pianist, and has taken five advanced STEM courses. VINCENT TANG Los Alamos High School, Los Alamos, NM HOMETOWN: Los Alamos, NM PROJECT: Identification and Characterization of HMGCL as a Therapeutic Target in BRAF V600E Positive Melanoma FIELD: Biochemistry MENTOR: Jing Chen, PhD, Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) “I initially had a naive idea that there would be a straightforward solution and path to follow, but that was quickly dispelled.” Vincent developed a drug screening procedure for the identification of HMGCL inhibitors, which have a potential application in the treatment of malignant melanoma. He said the most challenging experience was reading and doing research on prior literature on his topic. Vincent plays the violin, does ballroom dancing, and coaches fellow students in STEM classes. He has also taken seven advanced STEM courses, speaks two languages, is a National Honor Society member, and was a National Merit semifinalist. VENKATA MACHA Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School, Montgomery, AL HOMETOWN: Pike Road, AL PROJECT: A Novel Bioelectronic Chip for Noninvasive, Versatile Cancer Detection FIELD: Biology MENTOR: Dr. Marsha A. Moses; Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts) “Research is, no doubt, the best thing about STEM. Spending hours in the lab before finally finding an answer that nobody has ever seen or knows about is one of the most satisfying things about having such a background.” Venkata developed a novel bioelectronic chip that uses only human urine to detect any type of cancer. He said his most challenging experience was making a carbon nanotube-polymer dispersion for the chip. He had several failed attempts, but succeeded through research and perseverance. Venkata speaks three languages and has taken 10 advanced STEM courses. He is his school’s valedictorian, an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, and a National Merit semifinalist. JIANING XIE A&M Consolidated High School, College Station, TX HOMETOWN: College Station, TX PROJECT: Generalized Interatomic Two-Body Potential-Energy Function FIELD: Chemistry MENTOR: Professor Tapas Kar, Chemistry Department, Utah State University (Logan, Utah) “The 3D printer is definitely the awesomest thing invented. It turns imagination into reality.” Jianing developed a generalized two-body potential energy function that is very useful in the geometry optimization or dynamics study of large atomic clusters and biomolecules. Jianing plays the violin and trumpet, volunteers as the Easter Bunny, speaks three languages, and competes in Rubix Cube competitions. Jianing has taken six advanced STEM courses, and believes offering STEM courses earlier in education would encourage more kids to pursue math and science careers. ANVITA GUPTA BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ HOMETOWN: Scottsdale, AZ PROJECT: A Novel Method of Targeting Intrinsically Disordered Proteins for Drug Discovery: Application to Cancer and Tuberculosis FIELD: Biochemistry MENTOR: Dr. Gil Alterovitz, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School (Boston, Massachusetts) “My interest in math and science was piqued by playing with and learning to program LEGO Mindstorms robots that I received for my birthday.” Anvita developed a novel method to find promising drugs for diseases like cancer and tuberculosis, based on targeting intrinsically disordered proteins. These proteins make up seventy percent of all cancer proteins and are implicated in Alzheimer's, Tuberculosis, and Ebola; consequently, this research can be applied to find potential antivirals to combat the recent Ebola outbreak. She said the most challenging experience in working on this research project was designing the approach to find inhibitors of these disordered proteins, since they change shape constantly and make it difficult for drugs to bind to them. Anvita has founded and heads a computer science program for middle school girls (LITAS), has taken 16 advanced STEM courses, and speaks two languages (not including computer languages). She plays basketball and volleyball, is a competitive swimmer, and plays the guitar and piano. 2014 SIEMENS COMPETITION IN MATH, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Region 2: University of Texas at Austin Regional Finalists TEAM COMPETITORS AGNI KUMAR, Milton High School, Milton, GA PATRICIA CHANG, Milton High School, Milton, GA PROJECT: Evolution of Eukaryotic Ribosomes FIELD: Biochemistry MENTOR: Dr. Loren Williams, Jessica Bowman, Tim Lenz, & Eric O'Neill, Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia) Agni and Patricia’s research tests the proposed model of ribosomal expansion, in which given sites of eukaryotic expansion have conserved secondary structure even if the rRNA sequences are widely divergent. Through computation and experiment, they analyzed the secondary structures of various variable rRNA fragments, yielding results that can aid in understanding the evolution of the ribosome and could contribute to great advances in the design of specific therapeutics for pathogens. AGNI KUMAR HOMETOWN: Milton, GA “Mathematics is exquisite in its beauty of numbers and perfect proofs and theorems! I love how these areas of study make one think in new ways.” Agni hosted math meets during the summer, tutored students in AP calculus, participated in the Mu Alpha theta StudyBuddy tutoring program, speaks three languages, and plays the violin. She also enjoys swimming, basketball, bicycling, badminton, and playing anything with her younger sister. PATRICIA CHANG HOMETOWN: Milton, GA “Math and science explain so much of the world, yet they still remain extraordinary phenomena. Those two areas, in addition to technology, are very dynamic. Every day, new things are being discovered or challenged.” Patricia tutors students in math for the SAT, participates in the Mu Alpha theta StudyBuddy tutoring program, tutors chemistry and biology for the National Honor Society, plays tennis and the piano. She likes how advanced STEM courses focus on discussion-based learning instead of lectures and tedious assignments. SCARLETT GUO, Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon, CA LAURA PANG, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, TX PROJECT: Investigating Thrombogenic Properties of Various Polymer Surfaces through Fibrinogen Fiber Formation and Platelet Preferential Binding and Activation FIELD: Biochemistry MENTOR: Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, New York) Scarlett and Laura found a process to determine whether fibrinogen fibers formed on different polymer surfaces can activate platelets and potentially cause blood clots. This process can be used to screen materials for biomedical devices. SCARLETT GUO HOMETOWN: San Ramon, CA “I love how it's not end goal oriented. Science never ends. We can always do more, giving me infinite purpose.” Scarlett is a mentor for 5th grade science fair participants, has taken six advanced STEM classes, speaks three languages, is a cross country runner, and plays the piano. She said she is most proud of her relationship with her amazing and loyal friends. LAURA PANG HOMETOWN: Houston, TX “I am proud to have followed my passions regardless of the obstacles in the way.” Laura is an avid programmer, a co-founder of an MIT start-up company, has taken eight advanced STEM courses, tutors for several organizations, speaks three languages, and plays the piano and violin. She said she enjoys taking a wide variety of courses to further her understanding and experience potential career paths. ELI ECHT-WILSON, La Cueva High School, Albuquerque, NM ALBERT ZUO, La Cueva High School, Albuquerque, NM PROJECT: A Detailed Computational Model of Tree Growth FIELD: Biology MENTOR: Dr. Sean Hammond, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, New Mexico) Eli and Albert created a computer model that simulates how a tree will grow in varying conditions, which can replace long planting experiments. They said the most challenging part was fixing the bugs that would arise each time new biological factors were introduced. ELI ECHT-WILSON HOMETOWN: Albuquerque, NM “I am excited about applications of machine learning to scientific problems and the everyday world.” Eli is a spokesman for New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge, an AP computer science mentor, and volunteer website designer. He also speaks two languages, and plays both tennis and soccer. ALBERT ZUO HOMETOWN: Albuquerque, NM “I like making the world a more interesting place. Stuff that we used to see only in science fiction can now become a reality” Albert is a middle school Mathcounts coach, speaks two languages, and plays tennis and chess. He thinks schools would benefit from less standardized learning. SUSMITHA SAYANA, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, TX GERALD HU, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, TX SANCHIT SACHDEVA, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, TX PROJECT: Polymer Coatings for Extension of Service Life of Thermoelectric Materials and Devices FIELD: Engineering MENTOR: John White, Marlow Industry Inc. (Dallas, Texas) Susmitha, Gerald and Sanchit used high temperature polymers to reduce the amount of thermal degradation and oxidation of thermo-electric devices. The potential benefit of large-scale TEG device is limited because of TE material degradation at high-application temperatures. They helped to fill this gap by extending TEG devices’ service life by coating them with polymers that prevent thermal degradation. SUSMITHA SAYANA HOMETOWN: Allen, TX “The aspect of math, science, and technology that appeals to me the most is evolution and revolution of each respective field. STEM encompasses subjects that are infinite in knowledge and discoveries.” Susmitha is a research assistant at the Laboratory of Advanced Polymers and Optimized Materials (LAPOM) at University of North Texas, a volunteer at Austin Street Shelter, and an art club member. She also plays the viola and speaks three languages. GERALD HU HOMETOWN: Plano, TX “The atmosphere and general feel of working with a research team was challenging, due to its novelty.” Gerald is on the TAMS dean’s list, participates in theater, plays the oboe, and speaks two languages. He said he was always interested in energy in its various forms, and the intersection of heat and electricity was fascinating to him. SANCHIT SACHDEVA HOMETOWN: Plano, TX “Alternative energy is a very important area that needs to be explored. The environment needs to be protected, and safe reproducible energy must be used instead of fossil fuels.” Sanchit is a National Merit semifinalist, has taken 11 advanced STEM courses, plays chess and basketball, volunteers with Special Olympics, plays the euphonium, and speaks three languages. He said frustration runs high during research, but the feelings of success is unbelievable when you accomplish something. NAPASORN KUPRASERTKUL, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, TX SUMEDHA MEHTA, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, TX AKASH WADAWADIGI, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, TX PROJECT: A Novel Methodology to Mimic Biological Properties using Ionic Liquids: An Extensive in Silico Study FIELD: Chemistry MENTOR: Dr. William Acree Jr., University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) and Timothy Stephens, University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) Napasorn, Sumedha and Akash developed an in silico analytical approach that allows for identification of ionic liquids that mimic the chemical properties of biological barriers in humans and animals. This proposed mode of computational experimentation is pertinent to the pharmaceutical industry because it allows for scientists to virtually assess a drug’s effect before it is ever used in animal testing. NAPASORN KUPRASERTKUL HOMETOWN: Keller, TX “I like how any STEM field is driven by a quest for more knowledge and new discoveries to be made. It is a dynamic and fast-paced field, always striving to meet the demands for new technology or new solutions.” Napasorn is a two-time Texas Math and Science State Champion, participates in multiple tutoring programs, speaks two languages, is a children’s hospital volunteer, and was a Science Olympiad state qualifier. She believes more competitions that are varied and fun would encourage more students to pursue math and science fields. SUMEDHA MEHTA HOMETOWN: Irving, TX “I was fascinated by the ability of chemistry to provide the basis and explain all the matter that surrounds us. It gives the answer to every question that can be posed about the origin of the world to new materials that could be ideal for prosthetics.” Sumedha mentors high school students, tutors math and biology students through Forward Tutoring, speaks three languages, and plays the piano and guitar. She said she enjoys STEM for the ability to explain the workings of the world. AKASH WADAWADIGI HOMETOWN: Flower Mound, TX “My interests in chemical research with biomedical applications stemmed from my childhood trips to India where I witnessed a lack of adequate healthcare access.” Akash is the CEO of a non-profit organization that provides potable water to otherwise neglected areas, has taken several advanced and college level STEM courses, and plays basketball. He believes STEM leverages powerful technology to meet the growing needs of human life.
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