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A&M Consolidated High School, College Station, Texas
HOMETOWN: College Station, Texas
PROJECT: Lazy Toggle PRM: A Single-Query Approach to Motion Planning
FIELD: Computer Science
MENTOR: Dr. Nancy Amato, Texas A&M University
“I was inspired to do scientific research when I realized it would give me a chance to use my textbook knowledge to solve real-world problems and contribute to the scientific community.”
Kensen Shi’s passion for computer science led him to approach several computer science professors at Texas A&M University to find a mentor. Dr. Nancy Amato invited him to join her Parasol Laboratory, which focuses on the motion planning problem. This involves finding a safe path for a moveable object among obstacles, such as an assembly-line robot in a factory. Kensen developed a new algorithm that could compute safe paths for virtually any type of robot more efficiently than other methods. The strategy, called Lazy Toggle PRM, is effective in a wide range of scenarios, including those with narrow passages and highly complex environments. “The most challenging aspect of my project was figuring out how I could implement my proposed algorithm to work with the thousands of lines of existing code in the lab’s Motion Planning Library.”
Kensen has won honors in a variety of mathematics and science competitions. As Texas American Regional Mathematics League Gold Team captain, he led his team to 13th place nationally. He placed 21st nationally in the USA Computing Olympiad Gold Division and was a US National Chemistry Olympiad finalist. A senior, he is captain of his school’s Science Bowl team, which placed second regionally for two consecutive years. President of the Math Club, he presented a series of seminars on advanced topics and qualified for the USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad. He is also an accomplished pianist, having won numerous awards in the Houston Forum Young Artists Piano Competition. Kensen aspires to become a professor and researcher in computer science.
Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, New York
HOMETOWN: Chappaqua, New York
PROJECT: A Cellular Automaton Model for Critical Dynamics in Neuronal Networks
MENTOR: John M. Beggs, Indiana University
“I like how interdisciplinary mathematical modeling can be. Its basis may be in mathematics and/or physics, yet it can be used to solve real-world problems.”
In her research, Jiayi Peng built a cellular automation model that combined short-term synaptic plasticity with long-term metaplasticity to investigate how these two mechanisms contribute to attaining and maintaining operation at a critical point. Jiayi’s research could help determine how distinct neurological mechanisms can differentiate a healthy brain from one with a devastating neurological disorder such as epilepsy, autism or Alzheimer's disease. Jiayi became interested in mathematical modeling after reading an article in Scientific American about mathematicians and computer scientists modeling terrorist group structures and predicting their behavior. She spent over 1,200 hours on her project.
Jiayi, a senior, is a member of Cum Laude Honor society and her school’s top scorer in the American Mathematics Competition. She is a National Merit Semifinalist and has received Moody's Math Challenge National Honorable Mention and the US Navy and Marine Corps Science Award. A pianist, Jiayi has won an award in the Golden Key Piano competition. Actively involved in community service, as a tenth grader she founded Kits4Kids, a club dedicated to raising money for children, especially girls, to continue their education. “We've recruited over 40 members and have raised over $2,000.” She is also an executive of SHARE, her school’s largest club, and has organized school-wide collection drives for health centers in Haiti. Jiayi plans to major in physics or mathematics and aspires to be a researcher or professor in one of these fields.
HOMETOWN: Walkersville, Maryland
PROJECT: Geolocation of Photographs by Means of Horizon Matching with Digital Elevation Models
FIELD: Computer Science
MENTOR: Dr. Mark Pritt
“Science will always outdo your expectations. That's what I love about it.”
Geolocation is the process of determining where a photograph was taken. The horizon curve in a photograph is akin to a fingerprint and is often distinctive enough to accurately pinpoint the photograph’s location in an extremely large search area. In his computer science project, Samuel Pritt combined his two passions of computer programming and image processing. He developed an algorithm for extracting the photograph’s horizon curve and matching it with horizon curves generated from digital elevation models. The research has broad potential applications, from organizing photos on the web to robot navigation and counterterrorism.
Samuel, a senior, is a student intern in the Frederick National Lab for Cancer Research and a student member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Passionate about playing the piano, he is especially proud of winning the Frederick Regional Youth Orchestra 2012 Concerto Competition. He presented a paper at the IEEE 2012 International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium in Munich, Germany and was a finalist and second place grand award winner at the 2012 International Science and Engineering Fair. A National Merit Semifinalist, Samuel plans to major in computer science and pursue a career in chemical or biomedical engineering.
Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, Richmond, Virginia
HOMETOWN: Glen Allen, Virginia
PROJECT: Universal detector of light and b-radiation: multifunctionality enabled by quantum-mechanical wavefunction and density-of-states engineering, photomodulated electron tunneling, and quantum confined charge transport in nanowires
FIELD: Electrical Engineering
MENTOR: Dr. Gary C. Tepper, Virginia Commonwealth University
“I believe that although it is nice to understand something theoretically for knowledge's sake, it is more important to apply it.”
Saumil Bandyopadhyay became interested in optical processes in semiconductors after reading about photodetectors and their use in life-saving applications such as car collision avoidance systems, mine detection, night vision, and missile defense. After learning about the challenges of making infrared photodetectors, Saumil set out to create a photodetector that can work at room temperature, a problem for these detectors. He spent two summers and several days every week during the school year working late into the night to train in nanofabrication and characterization methods. He then invented a universal photon and particle detector built with semiconductor nanowires that can operate at room temperature and detects the entire electromagnetic spectrum, with infrared detectivity at least 10 times higher than state-of-the-art. He focused on making his detector ultra-sensitive, rugged, reliable, inexpensive and mass-producible. Potential applications include buried mine detection, monitoring of global warming, radiation therapy, and homeland security. He spent an estimated 1,600 hours on the project.
Saumil has worked as a laboratory intern since the seventh grade. He plans to major in electrical engineering in college towards a career as a scientific researcher. A Davidson Fellows scholarship winner, he placed first overall in Research at the International Space Olympics and won second place in Physics and Astronomy at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. Saumil has mentored students in the laboratory through the Richmond Area Program for Minorities in Engineering. In his free time he enjoys playing the violin. A senior, he is head editor of his school’s Academic Competition, a tournament of 500 questions written and edited by his school’s team and played nationwide. He looks forward to the Walker Model Congress in April 2013, a conference he has been planning since June aimed at educating students about the American government.
Regina High School, Iowa City, Iowa
HOMETOWN: Iowa City, Iowa
PROJECT: BMPR1A Mutations in Juvenile Polyposis Affect Cellular Localization
MENTOR: Dr. James Howe, University of Iowa
“I have had an inquisitive mind for as long as I can remember. At a young age, I would keep wondering why things work in a certain way, which definitely led me to the sciences.”
Long interested in biology, James Howe welcomed the opportunity to work on a project related to the genetic basis of cancer. “It allowed me to greatly expand my knowledge of cellular biology and apply it to a real clinical problem.” In his research, James found that missense mutations in BMPR1A, as seen in juvenile polyposis patients, lead to impaired intracellular trafficking and loss of cell-surface expression.
James enjoys playing football, participating in his school's debate team and Key Club, and tutoring his schoolmates in math and science. He plans on majoring in biology or biochemistry and would like to become a doctor.
Westview High School, Portland, Oregon
HOMETOWN: Portland, Oregon
PROJECT: Design and Synthesis of Novel Fatty Acid Binding Protein Inhibitors for Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects through Increases in Endogenous Anandamide Concentrations
MENTOR: Professor Iwao Ojima, Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, Stony Brook University
“I am drawn to the possibility of synthesizing dissimilar, wide-ranging pieces of information to help treat patients and make innovations in the field of medicine.”
“The day my mom broke her leg in a dreadful skiing accident, she refused to take any medication during her recovery,” Raghav Tripathi recalls. “I wondered how someone could bear so much misery and refuse all medical help. As I investigated, I found that painkillers have countless unintended adverse effects. The irony of relieving pain using medication that causes more pain galvanized me to create a painless painkiller.” Raghav tracked down a research paper on the discovery of a compound known as anandamide, naturally released within the body to slow pain. “I realized that if I could increase bodily anandamide levels, it wouldn’t have the side effects of foreign medications.” Investigating this compound, Raghav designed and synthesized an anti-inflammatory medication that operates through a method that may potentially reduce the unintended side-effects and addiction associated with modern painkillers.
Raghav founded and serves as president of both the Westview Pre-Medical Association – with over 150 members, the largest youth pre-medical society in Oregon – and the Westview Science National Honors Society. For three years he has served as state committee chair organizer of Model United Nations, winning multiple nominations for best speaker and consensus builder. Captain of the speech and debate team and a four-year Varsity tennis player, this high school senior has volunteered at Legacy Hospital since the eighth grade and mentors other students in STEM as a coach for a robotics team. He is interested in studying biology, biochemistry, public health, and neuroscience on a pre-med track and aspires to be a practicing neurologist. Fluent in Hindi, Raghav won first place best in category in cellular and molecular biology at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and was selected to represent the United States at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Bratislava, Slovakia.
George W. Hewlett High School, Hewlett, New York
PROJECT: COP1 Arrests Photomorphogenesis in Dark Grown Gametophytes of Ceratopteris richardii; A Study of COP1 in Cryptogams
MENTOR: Dr. Terrence Bissoondial
“Scientists and engineers are coming up with more efficient ways to perform tasks that have seemed impossible in the past decades.”
In their project, the team of Jeremy Appelbaum, William Gil and Allen Shin studied the role of Constitutive Photomorphogenic Protein 1 (COP1) in cryptogam plants. They found a new way to research COP1, a protein essential in a variety of pathways in plants and linked to tumorigenesis, the formation of tumors.
Hometown: Woodmere, New York
“Biology is my favorite subject in school because it incorporates how all living things work, especially the human body.”
Jeremy, a senior, is a member of his school's newspaper and volleyball team and a student tutor. He would like to major in biology or chemistry and aspires to be a physician.
Hometown: Valley Stream, New York
“It all started with the Discovery channel when I was very small. Instead of watching cartoons, I would be fascinated by all the documentaries that ranged from space exploration to deep sea diving.”
William, a senior, is president of the leadership group, WAFL (We are Future Leaders). He volunteers at the American Cancer Society and is a member of the varsity fencing team. William would like to become a biomedical researcher.
Hometown: Valley Stream, New York
“I find it interesting how science has such an important part in our everyday lives.”
Allen, a senior, plays volleyball for his school. He participates in an annual mission trip to help residents of impoverished areas. Allen would like to become a doctor.
DANIEL FU, Park Tudor School, Indianapolis, Indiana, and
Patrick Tan, Carmel High School, Carmel, Indiana
PROJECT: Chaos and Robustness in a Single Family of Genetic Oscillatory Networks
MENTOR: Dr. Alexey Kuznetsov and Dr. Yaroslav Molkov, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
“As the world continues to shift and develop into a technologically and scientifically-dependent community, the importance of math, science and technology will also grow, leading to more jobs, more collaboration, and (most of all) more innovation.”
In their project, Daniel Fu and Patrick Tan researched new techniques for mathematically analyzing genetic oscillatory networks. The team developed a method for reducing infinitely-dimensional delay differential equations (DDEs) to three-dimensional systems of ordinary differential equations (ODEs). Their work could lead to better treatments of diseases with irregularities in the cell cycle, such as cancer, or the circadian rhythm, such as sleep disorders. They were inspired by the movie Inception, which explores the mysteries of sleep. “Following the theme of the movie, we decided to go as deep as possible into the innermost workings of sleep. This eventually led us to study the Circadian rhythm and genetic oscillatory networks.”
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
“My favorite subject is history because I like seeing all the brilliant complexity in the world and seeing how every event throughout history has shaped the world to what it has become today.”
Daniel, a junior, is a member of USA Computing Olympiad Silver Division and won fourth place in the American Chemistry Society exam, Indiana section. He is secretary of the student council, editor of his school newspaper and junior editor of the literary art magazine. He volunteers in cancer clinics and mentors other students in STEM. Daniel is considering a major in computer science or political science and hopes to either be a research professor or politician. In the near future, he is most excited about attending The Hague International Model United Nations in the Netherlands.
Hometown: Carmel, Indiana
“My favorite subject is chemistry because I find discovering how the natural world works at a fundamental level fascinating.”
Patrick, a junior, is secretary of Key Club, president of Chemistry Club and a member of Top Symphonic Band. He volunteers with Habitats for Humanity and runs cross country. He is especially proud of co-founding the DPY Math Contest for middle school students, which helps prepare them for the MATHCOUNTS competition. Patrick plans to study biochemistry, applied mathematics and finance in college and aspires to have a career where he can combine math and science with his desire to help people.
Neil Davey, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland, and
Katie Barufka, Langley High School, McLean, Virginia
PROJECT: Deletion of Endonuclease G disrupts mitochondrial homeostasis and leads to reduced virulence in the human protozoan parasite Leishmania mexicana
MENTOR: Dr. Sreenivas Gannavaram, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, FDA
“Leishmaniasis is a serious health problem that affects millions of people around the world.”
Leishmaniasis, a debilitating disease spread by the bite of an infected sand fly, has no vaccine. In their research, Neil Davey and Katie Barufka focused on Endonuclease G, a gene that has been shown to have a role in maintaining mitochondrial functions in mice. By “knocking out” Endonuclease G from the protozoan parasite Leishmania mexicana, the team was able to create a live-attenuated parasite strain with reduced virulence. The research could have potential applications in leishmaniasis vaccine development.
Hometown: Gaithersburg, Maryland
“Science and technology are exciting fields that are constantly evolving. The most interesting trend for me is the greater overlap of the biology and engineering disciplines.”
Neil, a junior, was a finalist at The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), a global entrepreneurship competition. He holds two patent applications related to autonomous robots and one protecting the SWAP business plan. Neil is a member of the Science National Honors Society, where he tutors students in science, engineering and math. He is also an AP Scholar with Honors and a member of the varsity tennis team. Fluent in Sanskrit, Gujarat and Hindi, he volunteers and teaches at Samskrita Bharati, a nonprofit organization that promotes spoken Sanskrit. Neil plans to study biochemistry, finance, and/or South Asian Studies (Sanskrit). He would like to work in the field of drug and vaccine discovery, and eventually become a CEO of a pharmaceutical company.
Hometown: Reston, Virginia
“There are always new things, new answers, new cures to be discovered. Math and science are like puzzles, but the answers are infinite.”
Katie, a senior, has a deeply personal connection to her research. Her mother has struggled with Lyme disease for the past nine years. Similarly to Lyme disease, leishmaniasis is transferred to humans through an insect bite and there is no FDA-approved vaccine. “Although I knew that I would not develop a vaccine on my own, helping even a little towards the goal of developing an effective vaccine gave me great satisfaction.” Katie placed first in her high school science fair, earned second place in the regional science fair, and is the winner of a Student Athlete award. She is a member of Science Honor and Leadership Honor Societies and captain of her high school cheer team. She plans to study psychology and nursing in college and is considering becoming a psychologist or a nurse.
Oak Ridge High School, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
PROJECT: Creating a Higher-Efficiency Machine Learning Algorithm to Facilitate the Development of Cancer Treatment Drugs
FIELD: Computer Science
MENTOR: Chris Symons, Oak Ridge National Laboratory “We were excited by the potential we saw for machine learning to improve the search for new treatment options.”
In their research, A.J. Toth and Jim Andress created a higher-efficiency method for finding cancer-suppressing mutations in a protein. In the majority of cancers, the p53 protein has been mutated and can no longer perform its function. However, some secondary mutations can cancel the effects of the original mutation, restoring p53 activity and causing tumor regression. There are thousands of possible second-site mutations, and determining which successfully reactivate the p53 protein’s function is a difficult and expensive task. The team used a stochastic discrimination machine learning algorithm to accurately model and classify p53 mutation data. Experiments show that their algorithm is more efficient than other active learning techniques. Their work could lead to fewer costly tests and potentially expedite the development of cancer medications.
HOMETOWN: Oak Ridge, Tennessee
“Knowledge in math, science, and technology gives the potential to create innovative solutions to major world problems and improve the human condition.”
A.J., a senior, plans to study and pursue a career in electrical engineering. He hopes to work in management and travel as much as possible. He is an Eagle Scout, National Merit Semifinalist and AP Scholar who tutors algebra and trigonometry. A.J. plays upright bass in his church choir and has played piano in the ETSBOA Jazz Clinic Blue Band for the last three years.
HOMETOWN: Oak Ridge, Tennessee
“I like the elegant and logical nature of mathematics where each idea builds off of those which came before.”
Jim is a National AP Scholar, National Merit Semifinalist, and national winner of the EnergySolutions Scholarship. He is proud to be the lead author of a paper submitted to “Computational Mechanics” on the topic of the Boundary Integral Method. A senior, he is vice president of the senior class and plays bass in the school jazz band and a local jazz trio. Jim plans to major in math, physics or computer science and would like to become a researcher or professor with the time and money to travel.
Lexington High School, Lexington, Massachusetts
PROJECT: New Results in Staged Self-Assembly of Wang Tiles
MENTOR: Jesse Geneson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“We decided on this research topic not only because of the interesting math involved, but also because of its potential to be used beneficially in the real world.”
Jonathan Tidor and Rohil Prasad’s mathematics research explores self-assembly, which deals with the spontaneous appearance of order out of simple parts and is often applied in the field of nanotechnology. The team looked at a self-assembly model and developed a method to build arbitrary shapes that is optimal in most situations. They found faster ways to create systems of particles that assemble themselves into particular structures, which could make it easier to assemble a large variety of nanostructures, such as nanoscale biomedical devices. Johnathan and Rohil, who have known each other since the sixth grade, look forward to the possibility of their research being published in the next few months.
Hometown: Lexington, Massachusetts
“I first became interested in math because of my brother. In elementary school I couldn't wait to be older so that I could do all the cool math that he was doing.”
Jonathan, a junior, is captain of his school’s math team and Science Bowl team, which was a winner at the national Science Bowl. Outside of academics, he enjoys playing the piano. He expects to pursue a career related to mathematics or physics.
Hometown: Lexington, Massachusetts
“I was inspired to pursue this research by my love of mathematics competitions and a natural curiosity to see what mathematics research was like.”
Rohil aspires to work in a mathematics-related field. “I enjoy the intense problem solving aspects of it, in addition to how beautiful many things are in mathematics.” He is a member of the Science Bowl team and volunteers with his middle school’s math team. A high school junior, Rohil teaches and is a black belt in Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do.
THOMAS LUH, Leland High School, San Jose, California, and
JOY JIN, Henry M. Gunn High School, Palo Alto, California
PROJECT: Hedgehog-Gli Signaling Promotes Cell Proliferation and Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Lung Cancer -Awarded $10,000
MENTOR: Dr. Hui Li, Thoracic Oncology Laboratory, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
“It amazed and rather disgustingly stunned us that the leading cause of cancer-related deaths had not been fully investigated as much as many other, less significant ailments.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. A majority of cancer patients are diagnosed with metastatic phenotypes. It remains a scientific challenge to develop novel therapeutic strategies based on molecular mechanisms of cancer and metastatic process. In their research, Thomas Luh and Joy Jin discovered a relationship between two proteins critical in the development and formation of cancer, which could help improve the treatment and metastatic prevention of lung carcinomas. Their findings suggest the Hedgehog-Gli signaling pathway plays a role in promoting cell proliferation and Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) in lung cancer.
Hometown: San Jose, California
“Science is an extremely open field with plenty to discover, questions to ask, and infinitely more to learn.”
Thomas was inspired to pursue his research by the loss of his grandfather, great-aunt and uncle to various cancers. A junior, he is the founder and president of his school’s Science National Honor Society chapter and won second place in the biochemistry/microbiology category at the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Championship. He mentors local elementary school students in their science fair programs. Thomas received a diploma in piano performance from The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music at the age of 14 and performs music competitively, as well as at senior centers. He plans to study biology, biochemistry, biophysics and pre-medicine towards a career as a healthcare provider.
Hometown: Palo Alto, California
“Competitive figure skating is an extracurricular that requires high levels of commitment, perseverance, and patience. It has molded my outlook and perspectives on many facets of daily life.”
Joy took up competitive figure skating at the age of four and is a record-holder for the youngest individual to qualify for the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, a feat she has accomplished four times. She was a gold medalist in the 2012 U.S. National Figure Skating Solo Dance Championships and is a recipient of the 2013 US Figure Skating Special Achievement Award. A sophomore, she is vice president of the Chinese Culture Club and a member of National Honor Society and Model United Nations. Joy volunteers at the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She is considering molecular biology, neuroscience, and cancer biology as college majors and aspires to be a surgeon or oncological researcher.