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Teens at Intel STS Wow Judges with Breakthrough Science Ideas

Teenagers awarded more than $1.6 million for their outstanding scientific innovation at Intel STS.

A complex mathematical proof that may have implications in theoretical computer science, biology and game theory. A bioinformatics project in which computers are taught to identify mutations in DNA that cause disease in order to develop new treatments. A study on tiny particles of sound, called phonons, and how they interact with electrons, which may improve superconductivity and result in energy savings.

These projects scored three teens top honors — and $150,000 each — at the country’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition, the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS), at a black-tie gala at the National Building Museum, in Washington, D.C., on March 10.

2015 Intel STS Awards Gala 0864

More than 1,800 high school seniors applied for this best-of-the-best showdown; only 40 made the final cut. These finalists traveled to the nation’s capital to present original research to panels of esteemed judges.

The contestants competed for the top three Medal of Distinction awards in three categories: Basic Research, Global Good and Innovation.

Meet the Winners

Medal of Distinction for Basic Research recognizes finalists who demonstrate exceptional scientific potential through depth of research and analysis:

Noah Golowich_Massachusetts_Project 05

First Place: Noah Golowich, 17, of Lexington, Massachusetts

Golowich developed a proof in the area of Ramsey theory, a field of mathematics based on finding patterns or structure in large and complicated systems. His work solves a mathematical conjecture that had gone unsolved since 2005, and may have implications in theoretical computer science, biology and game theory.

Brice Huang_New Jersey_Project 28

Second Place: Brice Huang, 17, of Princeton Junction, New Jersey

Huang extended previous mathematical research on power ideals — linear functions of variables raised to some power — and was able to calculate the power ideal’s series of dimension for a larger class of ideals than has previously been possible.

Shashwat Kishore_Pennsylvania_Project 05

Third Place: Shashwat Kishore, 18, of West Chester, Pennsylvania

Kishore’s math project focused on representing abstract algebras using matrices. His work developed a new relationship between these matrices and topology.

Medal of Distinction for Global Good rewards finalists who demonstrate great scientific potential through their passion to make a difference:

Andrew Jin_California_Project 093

First Place: Andrew Jin, 17, of San Jose, California

Jin developed a machine learning algorithm to identify adaptive mutations across the human genome. By analyzing massive public genomic datasets, his system discovered more than 100 adaptive mutations related to immune response, metabolism, brain development and schizophrenia in real DNA sequences. Understanding the genetic causes of these diseases is an important first step toward developing gene therapies or vaccines.

Kalia Firester_New York_Project 36

Second Place: Kalia D. Firester, 17, of New York City

Firester studied how a protein produced by nematodes, which are crop-destroying parasites, interacts with a plant’s cells and defenses. Her research may contribute to engineering natural immunity to repel a pest that costs global agriculture $100 billion annually.

Anvita Gupta_Arizona_Project 34

Third Place: Anvita Gupta, 17, of Scottsdale, Arizona

Gupta used machine learning to “teach” a computer to identify potential drugs for cancer, tuberculosis and Ebola. Pre-clinical trials are already underway in China on the tuberculosis drugs she identified.

Medal of Distinction for Innovation celebrates finalists who demonstrate problem-solving aptitude through innovative design and creativity:

Michael Winer_Maryland_Project 24

First Place: Michael Hofmann Winer, 18, of North Bethesda, Maryland

Winer studied how fundamental quasi-particles of sound, called phonons, interact with electrons. His work could potentially be applied to more complex atomic structures, such as superconductors.

Saranesh Prembabu_California_Project 28

Second Place: Saranesh (Saran) Thanika Prembabu, 17, of San Ramon, California

Prembabu studied how varying the layers of lead titanate and strontium ruthenate in nanocrystal superlattices can affect their electrical and magnetic properties, which could be harnessed for a variety of electrical and computing applications.

Catherine Li_Florida_Project 03

Third Place: Catherine Li, 18, of Orlando, Florida

Li developed a new fiber-based method of fabricating microscopic particles designed for drug delivery, with potential applications in personalized cancer therapy.

Winners All Around

Second-place winners won $75,000, third place $35,000. All 40 of the finalists received $7,500, and more than $1.6 million was awarded overall to finalists, semifinalists and their schools through the competition.

2015 Intel STS Awards Gala 1141

“A solid foundation in science, technology, engineering and math creates the critical talent corporations and startups need to drive their business and contribute to economic development,” said Renee James, president of Intel and host of the event. “We hope this program will encourage other young people to become the next generation of scientists, inventors and engineers.”

Perhaps it will come as no surprise to know that, to date, Intel STS has launched eight Nobel Prize winners, 12 recipients of MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grants and seven who have been honored with the National Medal of Science or the National Medal of Technology.

Next up, as part of Intel’s effort to support young innovators, is the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), where approximately 1,800 winners of local, regional, state and national competitions around the globe will gather to present cutting-edge research and compete for more than $5 million in awards and scholarships. This event takes place May 10-15 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Already, last year’s Intel STS winners are well on their way, making their mark and changing the world for the better.

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