CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Months of dedication and hard work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) paid off tonight for three students named National Finalists in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, the nation's premier research competition for high school students. Joshua Meier of Teaneck, N.J. earned the top honors and a $3,000 individual scholarship for research on rapid aging of artificially-generated stem cells to develop a new treatment for cancer. Research on using graphene as a substrate for stem cells derived from dental pulp to be used in bone regenerative therapy earned Aaron Argyres of Clayton, Mo. and Mingu Kim of Columbia, Mo. the $6,000 team scholarship.
The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), host of the Region Five Finals. They are now invited to present their work on a national stage at the National Finals in Washington, D.C., December 7-10, 2013, where $500,000 in scholarships will be awarded, including two top prizes of $100,000. The Siemens Competition, a signature program of the Siemens Foundation, is administered by the College Board.
"These incredible students have invested significant time and energy to advance research and exploration in critical fields," said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation. "I commend the Region Five winners for their outstanding achievements and wish them luck in the next phase of the competition."
The Winning Individual
Joshua Meier, a senior at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, N.J. won the individual category and a $3,000 college scholarship for his project entitled, Control of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Aging by Modulation of Mitochondrial DNA Deletions.
For his project, Joshua developed techniques to control mitochondrial DNA deletion levels in order to slow the rapid aging symptoms of artificially-generated stem cells, which have the potential to revolutionize the field of regenerative medicine. Joshua applied this understanding to cancer by inducing deletion in cancer cells. This technique caused cancer cells to acquire aging symptoms and stop growing, suggesting a new clinically-applicable treatment for cancer.
"The discovery that adult cells can be reprogrammed as pluripotent stem cells and then differentiated into a desired cell type offers new hope for regenerating damaged tissues, but this promise is blocked by accelerated 'cellular' aging in these cells," said competition judge Mary-Lou Pardue, Ph.D., the Boris Magasanik Professor in Molecular Biology at MIT. "Joshua's work provides a potential solution that could open up avenues for renewed opportunities in regenerative medicine and cancer."
Joshua captured second place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2012 and was a finalist at the Google Science Fair in 2012. He competes on his school's debate team and teaches debate skills to homeless and abused youth. Joshua plans to pursue a career that combines his interests in scientific research, entrepreneurship and medicine. Joshua's mentor for the project was Dr. David A. Sinclair, Professor in the Genetics Department at Harvard Medical School.
The Winning Team
Aaron Argyres, a senior at Clayton High School in Clayton, Mo., and Mingu Kim, a senior at David H. Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo., won the team category and will share a $6,000 scholarship for their project entitled, Increasing the Proliferation Rate and Inducing Osteogenic Differentiation of Dental Pulp Stem Cells with Graphene/Poly (4-vinylpyridine) Composite Substrates.
Aaron and Mingu engineered a surface made of graphene, a super-strong, conductive material, and P4VP, a polymer similar to many household plastics, on which pluripotent stem cells extracted from the dental pulp inside the human tooth can grow and divide. The team's discovery could be used for bone regenerative therapy, as graphene copolymers can be bioengineered into scaffolds to help adult dental pulp stem cells grow.
"I was impressed by the team's ability to integrate principles of basic biology and advances in nanotechnology and materials science to address a real-world, clinical problem," said competition judge Ali Khademhosseini, Associate Professor at Harvard-MIT's Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. "These findings could allow us to take cells from the mouth and use them in the same patient for healing their bone defects."
Aaron performs in multiple theatrical performances at his school and serves as president of the Drama Guild. Aaron plans to leverage his love of public speaking in his future career by working at the intersection of business and engineering, or as a professor.
Mingu is chapter president of Mu Alpha Theta, a National Mathematics Honor Society, and founder and president of his school's Science Honor Society. He has played piano and violin for the Missouri All-State Orchestra for the past three years. Mingu aspires to become a research scientist. The team's mentor was Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, Distinguished Professor at Stony Brook University.
The remaining regional finalists each received a $1,000 scholarship. Regional Finalists in the individual category were:
- David Fu, Millard North High School, Omaha, Neb.
- Laura Fulton, Egg Harbor Township High School, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
- Evan Hauck, Bridgman High School, Bridgman, Mich.
- Carrie Xu, Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, N.J.
Team Regional Finalists were:
- Ruchi Asthana, High Technology High School, Lincroft, N.J.; and John Gow, Lawrence High School, Lawrenceville, N.J.
- Jenna DiRito and Serena Tharakan, Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, N.J.
- Jang Hoon Ha, Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, N.J.; and Yong Hyun Cho, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.
- Peter Shim, The Pingry School, Basking Ridge, N.J.; and Ji Won Lim, Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, Conn.
The Siemens Competition
Launched in 1998, the Siemens Competition is the nation's premier science research competition for high school students. A record 2,440 students registered for this year's competition and a total of 1,599 projects were submitted for consideration. Three hundred thirty-one students were named Semifinalists and 100 were named Regional Finalists. Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists at six leading research universities which host the regional competitions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Notre Dame and The University of Texas at Austin.
For news and announcements about the Regional Competitions and the National Finals, follow us on Twitter @SFoundation (#SiemensComp) and like us on Facebook at Siemens Foundation. A live webcast of the National Finalist Awards Presentation will also be available online at 9:30am EST on December 10: www.siemens-foundation.org.
The Siemens Foundation
The Siemens Foundation provides more than $7 million annually in support of educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Its signature programs include the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, a STEM research competition for high school students, Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, a sustainability challenge which encourages K-12 students to develop innovative green solutions for environmental issues and the Siemens STEM Academy, a national educator professional development program designed to support educators in their efforts to foster student achievement in STEM fields. By supporting outstanding students and educators today, and recognizing the mentors and schools that inspire STEM educational excellence, the Foundation helps nurture tomorrow's scientists and engineers. The Foundation's mission is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens' U.S. companies. For further information, visit www.siemens-foundation.org or follow @SFoundation.
The College Board
The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of more than 6,000 of the world's leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT® and the Advanced Placement Program®. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools. For further information, visit www.collegeboard.org.
Video and photos of winners available on request.
SOURCE Siemens Foundation