Finalists named for major teen competition in Washington

Forty high school seniors selected to take part in Intel Science Talent Search

finalist medals

The field of medals that will be awarded to finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search.


L. Buitrago/SSP

Teen researchers from 18 states have reached the next-to-final phase of the 2015 Intel Science Talent Search. In several weeks, each will have a chance to earn one of three top prizes of $150,000. Together, these high-school seniors will share in awards totaling more than $1 million.

The 40 finalists will visit Washington, D.C., from March 5 to 11. There, they will present their research to judges and the public. During more relaxed times, these teens will see the White House and other national landmarks. The climax of the week will be a black-tie awards gala at the National Building Museum.

Intel STS finalists “are some of the best and brightest young scientists in the nation,” said Maya Ajmera. She’s president and Chief Executive Officer of Society for Science & the Public, which publishes Science News for Students. “As an alumna of the Science Talent Search, I am especially proud to join with Intel in congratulating the finalists on their successes,” Ajmera said.

As always, the finalists’ research projects are diverse. One student invented a low-cost, portable device to detect blood diseases and parasites. Another developed advanced mathematical techniques to encrypt data. Yet another created computerized methods to search for promising treatments for diseases such as cancer and Ebola.

“This year’s finalists engaged in leading-edge scientific research and the creation of new technology to address global challenges such as renewable energy, cybersecurity and infectious diseases,” observes Justin Rattner. The teens’ accomplishments “prove that with the right education and resources, young people can indeed change the world,” he adds. Rattner is president of the Intel Foundation, which is based in Hillsboro, Ore.

Society for Science & the Public is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education. It has owned and run the Science Talent Search since its creation in 1942. Intel became the title sponsor of the competition 17 years ago. Since then, annual awards and scholarships associated with this program have increased from $205,000 to $1.6 million.

Past finalists in this competition have gone on to distinguished research careers, earning more than 100 of the world’s most coveted scientific accolades. Among those honors are eight Nobel prizes, two Fields Medals (for outstanding discoveries in mathematics), five National Medals of Science and 12 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships.

This year’s crop of young researchers includes 19 girls and 21 boys. They represent 36 high schools from coast to coast. Previously, judges had narrowed the field to 300 semifinalists from more than 1,800 entries. Nineteen finalists — almost half — hail from schools in California and New York.

Last year’s top prize of $100,000 went to Eric Chen of San Diego, Calif. He used computer models to look for potential new drugs to fight influenza. Second-place honors, and $75,000, went to Kevin Lee of Irvine, Calif. He developed a mathematical model to describe the shape of a beating heart. William Henry Kuszmaul of Lexington, Mass., claimed the competition’s third-place award and $50,000. Results of his math project could help researchers in fields such as computer science and computational biology.

2015 Intel STS finalists (listed by state, name, high school and its location)

ARIZONA – Anvita Gupta, BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale

CALIFORNIA – Augustine George Chemparathy, Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon; Andrew Jin, The Harker School, San Jose; Somya Khare, Lynbrook High School, San Jose; Rohith Kuditipudi, The Harker School, San Jose; Kriti Lall, Castilleja School, Palo Alto; Janel Lee, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton; Yelena Mandelshtam, University High School, Irvine; Jennifer McCleary, Arnold O. Beckman High School, Irvine; Saranesh Prembabu, Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon; Tanay Tandon, Cupertino High School, Cupertino; Steven Michael Wang, The Harker School, San Jose

COLORADO – Jesse Zhang, Fairview High School, Boulder

FLORIDA – Catherine J. Li, Lake Highland Preparatory School, Orlando

ILLINOIS – Ryan D’Mello, Benet Academy, Lisle

MASSACHUSETTS – Noah Golowich, Lexington High School, Lexington

MARYLAND – Michael Winer, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring; Yizhen Zhang, Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville

NEW JERSEY – Eswar Anandapadmanaban, Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School, Jersey City; Nicole Eskow, Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology, Hackensack; Brice Huang, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, Plainsboro; Alexander Lin, Millburn High School, Millburn

NEW YORK – Samuel Epstein, John F. Kennedy High School, Bellmore; Kalia D. Firester, Hunter College High School, New York City; Charles Gulian, Ossining High School,Ossining; Ien Li, Jericho Senior High School, Jericho; Scott Massa, Commack High School, Commack; Max Pine, Pelham Memorial High School, Pelham; Tiffany Sun,Roslyn High School,Roslyn Heights; Crystal Zheng, Jericho Senior High School, Jericho

NORTH CAROLINA – Emily Lorin Ashkin, Providence Day School, Charlotte

OHIO – Emily Jane Spencer, Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights

OREGON – Valerie S. Ding, The Catlin Gabel School, Portland; Anika Raghuvanshi, Jesuit High School, Portland

PENNSYLVANIA – Shashwat Kishore, Unionville High School, Kennett Square

TEXAS – Lily Liu, Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton

UTAH – Brandon Bicheng Cui, Hillcrest High School, Midvale

VIRGINIA – Anya Michaelsen, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Burke

WASHINGTON – Reesab Pathak, Camas High School, Camas

WISCONSIN – Dhaivat Nitin Pandya, Appleton North High School, Appleton

Power words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

cancer  Any of more than 100 different diseases, each characterized by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The development and growth of cancers, also known as malignancies, can lead to tumors, pain and death.

computational biology    A field in which scientists use mathematics and computer programs to better understand living things.

computer science  The scientific study of the principles and use of computers.

cyber  A prefix that refers to computers or to a type of system in which computerized or online communication occurs.

Ebola   A family of viruses that cause a deadly disease in people. All cases have originated in Africa. Its symptoms include headaches, fever, muscle pain and extensive bleeding. The infection spreads from person to person (or animal to some person) through contact with infected body fluids. The disease gets its name from where the infection was first discovered in 1976 — communities near the Ebola River in what was then known as Zaire (and is now the Democratic Republic of Congo).

infectious  An adjective that describes a type of germ that can be transmitted to people, animals or other living things.

influenza (or flu)  A highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever and severe aching. It often occurs as an epidemic.

model  A simulation of a real-world event (usually using a computer) that has been developed to predict one or more likely outcomes.

parasite  An organism that gets benefits from another species, called a host, but doesn’t provide it any benefits. Classic examples of parasites include ticks, fleas and tapeworms.

renewable energy  Energy from a source that is not depleted by use, such as hydropower (water), wind power or solar power.

technology  The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.

Readability Score: 8.8