PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 17, 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. Eric Chen of San Diego, Calif. earned the top individual honors and a $3,000 scholarship for discovering potent influenza endonuclease inhibitors, which could be used to develop anti-flu drugs. Andrew Jin of San Jose, Calif. and Steven Wang of Los Altos, Calif. earned top team honors and a $6,000 scholarship for their research on synergistic chemotherapy drug combinations, which could enhance cancer treatment.
The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), host of the Region One 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.
"Congratulations to the winners of the Siemens Competition Regional Finals for their remarkable research in STEM," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation. "I commend these scholars for their innovative and creative projects and look forward to seeing them contend for the top prizes at the National Finals next month."
The Winning Individual
Eric Chen, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, Calif., won the individual category and a $3,000 college scholarship for his project titled, Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Fight Flu Pandemic.
For his project, Eric combined computer modeling with experimental research to discover influenza virus inhibitors. These findings could be used to develop new anti-flu drugs that will help protect people against future pandemic outbreaks.
"Eric developed a comprehensive and novel approach to develop a general drug for influenza," said Jim Heath, competition judge and professor of chemistry at Caltech. "He not only conceived the project, but he also independently carried out many different aspects of the work using computational chemistry, structural biology and combinatorial chemistry. Eric is getting closer to developing an important antiviral treatment by advancing a new, integrated approach to drug discovery."
Eric was inspired to pursue research on influenza after the swine flu outbreak started in his hometown of San Diego in 2009. Eric earned the Google Science Fair Grand Prize and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Grand Prize Award. He is the founder and head coach of a summer math contest program for middle school students and helped start Science Fair and Science Olympiad programs at his town's primary and middle schools. He plans to become a college professor or an entrepreneur.
Eric's project mentors were Dr. Rommie Amaro, assistant professor, and Dr. Gen-Sheng Feng, professor, both of the University of California, San Diego.
The Winning Team
Andrew Jin and Steven Wang, juniors at The Harker School in San Jose, Calif., won the team category and a shared scholarship of $6,000 for their project entitled, Rational Discovery and Optimization of Synergistic Chemotherapy Combinations: A Novel Framework Integrating Gene Perturbation Analysis and Machine Learning Algorithms.
Andrew and Steven used virtual computer modeling and biological experimentation to speed up the discovery of effective anti-cancer drug combinations. The team demonstrated that these drug combinations can enhance potency, reduce toxicity and prevent resistance of chemotherapy treatments. Moreover, the students' discovery could shorten the time it takes pharmaceutical manufacturers to create first-in-class anti-cancer drugs.
"Andrew and Steven cleverly leveraged existing data on gene expression and cancer treatments to discover new synergetic combinations of drugs that work better together than alone," said Jeffrey Mendez, competition judge and chemistry instructor at Caltech. "In addition to their sophisticated computational approaches, they obtained rigorous experimental validation. Much like their drug combinations, these two students achieved a combined result that was stronger than the sum of its parts."
Andrew is an officer in his school's science research club and volunteers for the Breakthrough Silicon Valley program, through which he tutors underprivileged high school students in math and science. He is captain of his school's public forum debate team, serves as an active member of the Boy Scouts and plays classical piano. He plans to start a company in either the high-tech or health industry, or become a research professor.
Steven was inspired to pursue his research project after his father passed away from colon cancer. In his memory, he hopes to find a cure. Steven earned National Semifinalist distinctions at the Tournament of Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking and was part of the first-place winning team at Technology Students Association Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Math and Science. He participates in speech and debate, volunteers for the American Cancer Society and plays baseball. He plans to pursue a career in medicine or computer programming.
The team's project mentors were Dr. Andrew Beck, assistant professor of pathology and director of the Molecular Epidemiology Research Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School; Dr. Dobrin Dragonov, post-doctoral research fellow in the department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology at City of Hope National Medical Center; and Dr. Peter Lee, the Billy and Audrey L. Wilder Professor and chair of the Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology at City of Hope National Medical Center.
The remaining regional finalists each received a $1,000 scholarship.
Regional Finalists in the individual category were:
- Charles Li, California High School, San Ramon, Calif.
- Sidhanth Venkatasubramaniam, Palo Alto High School, Palo Alto, Calif.
- Emily Wang, Henry M. Gunn High School, Palo Alto, Calif.
- George Wu, La Jolla High School, La Jolla, Calif.
Team Regional Finalists were:
- Ayesha Bajwa, Castilleja School, Palo Alto, Calif.; and Smriti Pramanick, Castilleja School, Palo Alto, Calif.
- Anin Sayana, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, Calif.; and Milan Gambhir, Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, Calif.
- Anna Zeng, Mission San Jose High School, Fremont, Calif.; and Kevin Zeng, Mission San Jose High School, Fremont, Calif.
- Kristine Zhang, Saratoga High School, Saratoga, Calif.; and David Ma, Mission San Jose High School, Fremont, Calif.
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