Alabama, Colorado, and New York Students Win Regional Siemens Competition at the University of Texas at Austin
Four students have been named National Finalists in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology after earning top spots in one of two regional competitions that took place this past weekend. The Competition is the nation's premier science research competition for high school students and promotes excellence by encouraging students to undertake individual or team research projects. For more information go to: www.siemens-foundation.org
Kenneth Jiao of Birmingham, AL, earned top individual honors and a $3,000 scholarship for discovering a new role of genes that could link to breast cancer metastasis. Chelsea Wang of Fort Collins, CO, Rachel Li of Poughkeepsie, NY, and Jainil Sutaria of Ardsley, NY, shared the $6,000 team scholarship for developing a novel gel compound that could help bone regeneration in teeth by acting as a barrier to bacteria. They were among 101 students overall selected to compete in regional competitions across the country this month out of a pool of more than 1,860 projects submitted for the competition this year.
These regional winners now move to the final phase of the Siemens Competition to present their work at the National Finals in Washington, D.C., December 4-5, 2017, where $500,000 in scholarships will be awarded, including two top prizes of $100,000. Each of the finalists will receive at least $25,000 in scholarship money.
The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges at The University of Texas at Austin, host of the Region Two Finals.
"It’s amazing to see the knowledge and determination students bring to the competition each year," said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation. "These high school students are presenting top-notch, graduate-level research and they deserve recognition for their efforts to improve so many lives."
The Siemens Competition, launched in 1999 by the Siemens Foundation, increases access to higher education for students who are gifted in STEM and is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens. The competition, administered by Discovery Education, develops a pipeline for the nation’s most promising scientists, engineers and mathematicians.
The Winning Individual for Region Two
Kenneth Jiao, a senior from Indian Springs School in Indian Springs Village, AL, won the individual category and a $3,000 scholarship for his project entitled, "Retain CHD7, an Epigenetic Regulator, in the Nucleus to Combat Breast Cancer Metastasis."
Kenneth discovered a new role of the gene and its molecular processes that could link to breast cancer metastasis, which occurs when cancer cells spread from a primary site to distant organs. His research could lead to an improved molecular understanding of the growth and prognosis of breast cancer, as well as better methods of developing treatments for patients with breast cancer.
An estimated 90 percent of breast cancer deaths are a result of metastatic disease, either at diagnosis or recurrence. And, according to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, an advocacy group for patients with late-stage breast cancer, all deaths from breast cancer result from the spread of breast cancer cells to other vital organs such as the bones, lung, liver or brain. Despite great progress in cancer therapy, treatments to cure metastatic breast cancer do not exist.
"Kenneth’s research could bring scientists one step closer to developing a new biomarker for breast cancer metastasis and saving lives,” said competition judge Dr. Z. Jeffrey Chen, D. J. Sibley Centennial Professor of Molecular Biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin. "It's rare to see this level of progress achieved in an independent project. Kenneth’s work is phenomenal, and could help reveal the underlying mechanisms in breast cancer metastasis.”
Kenneth was inspired to pursue his research after his mother had a breast cancer scare a few years ago and he “felt the patients’ vulnerability and their families’ desperation.” Kenneth serves on student government, runs cross country for his high school’s varsity team, and founded his school’s Science Olympiad Team. Ken is an avid chess player, ranked 28th in Alabama, and guided his school’s chess team as its captain to first place at the Alabama Scholastic State Championships twice. Kenneth received 3rd Place Grand Prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Kenneth’s mentor is Dr. Lizhong Wang of The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.
The Winning Team for Region Two
Chelsea Wang of Fort Collins, CO, Rachel Li of Poughkeepsie, NY, and Jainil Sutaria of Ardsley, NY, won the team category and will share a $6,000 scholarship for their project entitled “Synthesizing and Characterizing Novel Gelatin and Pluronic F127 Hybrid Hydrogels as a Barrier Membrane for Guided Bone Regeneration Following Periodontitis."
Chelsea, Rachel, and Jainil developed a novel gel compound that acts as a barrier, preventing gum tissue from invading the bone tissue affected by gum disease, allowing guided regeneration of the bone surrounding the tooth root.