January 1, 2008 (Vol. 28, No. 1)

Girls swept the top prizes in America’s premier high school science competition for the first time in its nine-year history as Isha Jain and the team of Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff were named $100,000 Grand Prize winners in the 2007–08 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

The Siemens Competition, a signature program of the Siemens Foundation, is administered by the College Board. The ninth annual awards were presented at New York University, host of the Siemens Competition National Finals, last month.

Isha Jain, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, PA, won the $100,000 scholarship in the individual category for research on bone growth. Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, NY, won the $100,000 prize in the team category, which they will share equally, for research on tuberculosis.

“These students have climbed the Mount Everest of science competitions and reached the summit,” says Thomas McCausland, chairman of the Siemens Foundation. “With all the challenges facing our world today, it is heartening to know these remarkable young people are working on the solutions.”

Isha Himani Jain’s research focused on zebra fish bone growth that adds a new dimension to our understanding of human bone growth and our ability to treat bone injuries and disorders. Jain’s project is entitled “Bone Growth in Zebra Fish Fins Occurs via Multiple Pulses of Cell Proliferation.”

“Scientists and parents alike know that growth is not linear but occurs in spurts,” notes Stephen J. Moorman, Ph.D., associate professor, neuroscience and cell biology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, a competition judge. “Jain is the first to identify mini spurts, a cellular mechanism that underlies growth spurts on a molecular level. This is graduate-level work.”

Jain’s research has been published in Developmental Dynamics, a journal in the field of developmental biology.

Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff won the team category and will share a $100,000 scholarship for a drug discovery project that could lead to the first new tuberculosis treatment in 35 years. Their project is entitled “FtsZ Inhibitors as Novel Chemotherapeutic Agents for Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis.”

“Tuberculosis is the number one bacterial killer in the world, with ten million new cases every year,” says Scott Franzblau, Ph.D., professor and director of the Institute for Tuberculosis Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a competition judge. “Yet there have been no new drugs to treat TB in the last 35 years. These students synthesized new compounds to kill tuberculosis by targeting a specific protein that could lead to a new treatment for drug-resistant TB.”

The other life science research projects and winners include:

Mathematical Modeling of a Eukaryotic Circadian Clock—Alexander Huang’s biophysics research utilizes circadian-clock rhythms in bread mold to assist in the understanding of various biological cycles of living organisms. The project could ultimately produce better timing for delivering chemotherapy to the body when it is most receptive or even avoid jet-lag/fatigue induced by traveling across time zones. Alexander C. Huang, Plano Senior High School, Plano, TX

Cellular Translation Factors Are Required for the Virion Host Shutoff (Vhs) Function of Herpes Simplex Virus: Use of siRNA-Induced Depletion of Cellular Factors to Test Involvement in Vhs Activity—Nandini Sarma’s microbiology/virology research may reveal a possible way of preventing and curing Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) infections. Her research results could lead to the development of effective antiviral treatments or possible cures for HSV and other viral infections. Nandini Sarma, Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, KS

Alternative Splicing Defects Linked to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—Alicia Darnell’s molecular biology project can be potentially applicable to finding the cause of ALS, a poorly understood and lethal disease, as well as to its diagnosis and treatment. Her research focused on identifying alternative splicing defects that could play a role in the pathogenesis of ALS. Alicia Darnell, Pelham Memorial High School, Pelham, NY

Transformation of Herceptin (Trastuzumab) Sensitive SKBR3 Breast Tumor Cells into Herceptin Resistant Cells by Transfection with t-Darpp DNA—The team’s bioengineering project could have potential implications in breast cancer research. The project demonstrates that breast cancer patients with Her-2 oncogene positive tumor cells should be closely monitored for t-Darpp levels as elevated levels of this protein can induce Herceptin resistance. Sarah Waliany, Flintridge Preparatory School, La Canada Flintridge, CA, and Shelina Kurwa, Westridge School for Girls, Pasadena, CA

Controlled Release of Nitric Oxide from Electrospun Biodegradable Fibers—The team’s chemistry project researched the production of materials that would release nitric oxide (NO) in a controlled manner and would provide a means to regulate physiological processes and preserve organs and tissues. Their research attempts to create electrospun biodegradable fibers that would release NO in a controlled manner so organs and severed limbs lost in accidents or war zones can be preserved and maintained. Camden Miller, Allen High School, Allen, TX, and John Y. Chen, Plano East Senior High School, Plano, TX

Inhibition of VEGF Decreases Photodynamic Therapy-Induced Angiogenesis, and Reduces Tumor Regrowth of Nude Mice Bearing U87 human glioma—Ding and Jiang’s biology project examines the efficacy of photodynamic therapy (PDT) for brain tumors. Their research may lead to combination therapies that can help prevent tumor regrowth after PDT. Christopher Ding, Adams High School, Rochester Hills, MI, and James Jiang, Troy High School, Troy, MI

A Computational Model for Translational Efficiency and Frameshifts in Escherichia coli Using a Genetic Signal Processing Approach—The team’s genetic research may allow scientists to quickly determine the translational efficiency of a given protein sequence, which can, in turn, help increase production of biologically and medically important recombinant or man-made proteins. The project can potentially provide a cost-effective method of producing useful proteins on a commercially viable scale. Vivek Bhattacharya, Hao Lian, and Daniel Vitek, William G. Enloe High School, Raleigh, NC

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