Eight Indian American high school seniors are among forty high school seniors named finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search 2008. The competition, often called the junior Nobel Prize, is America's oldest and most prestigious high school science competition. Each finalist will receive at least $5,000 in scholarships and a new laptop.
The finalists will display their research at the National Academy of Sciences and meet in Washington, D.C. in March for a rigorous judging process, meetings and interactions with national leaders and leading scientists. The top winner will receive a $100,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation.
The finalists’ independent research projects include diverse areas and interesting findings.
Ashok Chandran, 17 of New York furthered understanding on the relationship of nicotine to breast cancer and chemotherapy efficacy. He build his work on the speculation that teenage girls typically start smoking when their mammary tissue is most susceptible to damage with the possibility that nicotine may be linked to human breast cancer by facilitating or speeding the development of the malignant processes. He tested the hypothesis that nicotine would alter mammary cell gene expression and create a cellular environment more akin to that of a breast cancer cell, suggesting that nicotine increases abnormal cell growth and chemotherapeutic drugs are less effective on nicotine-treated cells.
Avanthi Raghavan, 17, of Orlando, Florida studied the mechanisms of protein transport critical to the survival and virulence of the malaria parasite. She hopes that her study will help researchers in finding usable targets for the development of new drug therapies to attack malaria parasites that have developed a resistance to existing anti-malarial drugs such as quinine, chloroquine and amodiaquine.
Ayon Sen, 17, of Austin, Texas, investigated the natural processes by which the ocean transports heat and developed a software interface determining that a significant amount of energy is dissipated in the ocean depths. He believes that his research makes the first quantitative estimate of this phenomenon having important implications for maintaining global climate.
Hamsa Sridhar, 18, of New York has developed a low cost optical tweezers system consisting of a single cylinder lens, a laser and $1,000 worth of materials. Her simplified single lens mode converter demonstrated quicker alignment, decreased sensitivity to sample deviations and minimized power loss, while enabling manipulation and three-dimensional rotation of microscopic particles at high magnification.
Shivani Sud, 17, of North Carolina, studied the identification of stage II colon cancer patients at high risk for recurrence and the best therapeutic agents for treating their tumors. Shivani has used gene expression profiles to link multiple genetic events that characterize various tumor types and created her model using two public data sets containing 125 patient samples coupling it with clinical data to plot statistically significant survival curves, and using her model to identify drugs that may be effective in treating stage II colon cancer.
Vinay Venkatesh Ramasesh, 18, of Fort Worth, Texas presented a project involving recently developed algorithms known as local methods to determine molecular thermodynamic properties of large molecules, such as proteins. He ran thousands of calculations at reduced computational cost and identified aspects of the localization methods that required further effort.
Shravani Mikkilineni, 17, of Michigan, studied the computation of continued fraction expansions of the square roots of positive integers and Isha Jain, 17, of Pennsylvania, submitted the mechanisms of bone growth in the caudal fin rays of zebra fish. She found that the number of dividing cells fluctuates, and segment growth appears to be the result of several pulses of cell division. She developed a mathematical representation of her results providing statistical significance and a model describing her data believing that her novel findings will further our understanding of human bone development.
Intel Chairman Craig Barrett noted, “2008 not only marks the 10th anniversary of Intel's sponsorship of the STS, but falling in a presidential election year this competition highlights more than ever the importance of supporting math and science education in the United States. Intel STS showcases the incredible advancements made by students across the nation when we get the system right and demonstrates the capabilities of the next generation."