SOUTH BEND, Ind.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--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. Peter Tian of Hilliard, Ohio earned the top honors and a $3,000 individual scholarship for research on multidimensional matrices. Research on exosome use for possible neurological disease therapies earned David Wu and Xinchu Tian of Troy, Mich. the $6,000 team scholarship.
The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges from the University of Notre Dame, host of the Region Three Finals. They will now present their work on a national stage in Washington, D.C., December 5-9, 2014, 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 Discovery Education.
“These incredible students have invested significant time and energy to advance research and exploration in critical fields,” said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation. “I commend the finalists for their outstanding achievements and wish them luck in the next phase of the competition.”
The Winning Individual
Peter Tian, a senior at The Wellington School in Columbus, Ohio, won the individual category and a $3,000 scholarship for his project, titled “Extremal Functions of Forbidden Multidimensional Matrices.”
Peter’s research improves our understanding of the largest number of ones in multidimensional matrices with entries that are only zero or one, avoiding certain patterns. This problem applies to networks that do not contain a sub-network of a specified type. Such issues need to be addressed in robot motion planning and circuit design. This work also extends a number of known results, and advances areas of pure mathematics.
“This project was very sophisticated,” said Juan Migliore, Professor of Mathematics, University of Notre Dame. “Peter extended work that appeared in very high-level journals, and it took a lot of creativity to explore these types of problems. It will be a nice addition to the available literature once it is published.”
Peter said a childhood interest in patterns led him to a later interest in pattern avoidance. He likes the creative problem-solving aspects of mathematics and intends to become a professor of the subject. He is also the co-founder and co-president of the Wellington Math Club, runs for the cross-country team, plays alto saxophone, and volunteers at the Center of Science and Industry.
“I studied higher dimensional matrices because little work had been done on it. Plus it is more abstract and interesting!” explained Peter.
Peter’s mentor is Jesse Geneson, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Winning Team
Juniors David Wu and Xinchu Tian from Troy High School in Troy, Mich. won the team category and will share a $6,000 scholarship for their project, titled “Exosomes Derived from Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Promote Axonal Growth.”
David and Xinchu investigated a population of extracellular vesicles, called exosomes, which are released from many cell types. They studied how these structures could be exploited as possible therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases or injuries by engineering them to carry specific cargo for delivery to nerve cells. This cargo would then trigger re-growth in those cells.
“David and Xinchu impressed us with their depth of knowledge on the subject as well as their understanding and interpretation of results. We felt it was a very cohesive story and set of experiments,” said Dr. James Clancy, researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame. “They show skills that are critical to being a successful scientist – being able to understand and synthesize the information obtained through their studies. It is remarkable for high school students to have this level of understanding.”
David was inspired to do work in this field because he has seen the severe, detrimental effects that many neurological diseases and disorders have on a large portion of the population. He loves biology because he enjoys learning about how life works, but it is not his only passion. He also plays the violin and piano. He plans on one day becoming a doctor, specializing in cardiothoracic surgery.
Xinchu is also drawn to STEM, but finds time to play the viola in her school’s symphony orchestra, be competitive in French, help run a quiz bowl at a local middle school, and play tennis. She plans to pursue a career in the medical field.
“I remember the first time I sat down to analyze some cells we had cultured,” explained Xinchu Tian. “The room was dark except for the light of the computer screen attached to a large microscope. The cells, a bright fluorescent color under the microscope, held a breathtaking beauty. To me, it looked like I was looking down on New York City’s lights; that first sight was amazing.”
David and Xinchu’s mentors are Dr. Michael Chopp and Dr. Yi Zhang from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Mich.
The remaining Regional Finalists each received a $1,000 scholarship. Regional Finalists in the individual category were:
- Rishabh Kumar, Carmel Senior High School, Carmel, Ind.
- Walter Li, Canterbury High School, Fort Wayne, Ind.
- Achal Fernando-Peiris, Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, Ohio
- Charles Pei, Upper Arlington High School, Upper Arlington, Ohio
Team Regional Finalists were:
- Savannah Cofer, Columbus Academy, Gahanna, Ohio; Varun Vallabhaneni, Columbus Academy, Gahanna, Ohio
- David Huang, Troy High School, Troy, Mich.; Eric Cheng, Troy High School, Troy, Mich.
- Dhruv Medarametla, Troy High School, Troy, Mich.; Justin Xu, Troy High School, Troy, Mich.
- Pranav Sivakumar, Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy, Aurora, Ill.; Janani Sivakumar, Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy, Aurora, Ill.
The Siemens Competition
This year marks the 15th Anniversary of the Siemens Competition, the nation’s premier research competition for high school students. A record 4,428 students registered for this year’s competition and submitted a total of 1,784 projects for consideration – a 12% increase over the number of projects submitted last year. 408 students were named semifinalists and 97 were named regional finalists, representing 38 states. Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists from six leading research universities which host the regional competitions: California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Notre Dame and The University of Texas at Austin.
About the Siemens Foundation
The Siemens Foundation supports educational initiatives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Its signature programs include the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology and Siemens Science Day. 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.
About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content and professional development for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content that supports the implementation of Common Core, professional development, assessment tools, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Available in over half of all U.S. schools and primary schools in England, community colleges and in 50 countries around the world, Discovery Education partners with districts, states and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that accelerate academic achievement. Discovery Education is powered by Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Explore the future of education at www.discoveryeducation.com.
Photos of winners available on request.