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.
Research on an infrared photodetector with potential applications in car collision avoidance and mine detection earned top honors and the $3,000 Individual scholarship for Saumil Bandyopadhyay of Glen Allen, Virginia. Research that could help in the development of anticancer drugs won the $6,000 Team scholarship for A.J. Toth and Jim Andress of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges from Georgia Institute of Technology, host of the Region Six Finals. They are now invited to present their work on a national stage at the National Finals in Washington, DC, December 1-4, 2012, 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 the College Board.
"These students have invested time, energy and talent in tackling challenging scientific research at a young age," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation. "The recognition they have won today demonstrates that engagement in STEM is an investment well worth making."
The Winning Individual
Saumil Bandyopadhyay, a senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies in Richmond, Virginia, won the individual category and a $3,000 college scholarship for his project entitled, Universal detector of light and b-radiation: multifunctionality enabled by quantum-mechanical wavefunction and density-of-states engineering, photomodulated electron tunneling, and quantum confined charge transport in nanowires.
In his project, Saumil developed a novel universal light and beta-radiation detector that has the capability to perceive infrared light at room temperature, a problem with these detectors, with a rate at least 10 times higher than other common detectors.
"We were very impressed by his understanding of quantum physics and engineering," said competition judge Alenka Zajic, Assistant Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Tech. "His research has potential applications in collision avoidance systems, buried mine detection and monitoring global warming, among others."
Saumil has applied for a US patent for his project. He has had two papers published in peer-reviewed physics journals with a few more under submission. Saumil, who has worked as a laboratory intern since the seventh grade, plans to major in electrical engineering in college towards a career as a scientific researcher. A Davidson Fellows scholarship winner, he placed first overall in Research at the International Space Olympics and won second place in Physics and Astronomy at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. Saumil has mentored students in the laboratory through the Richmond Area Program for Minorities in Engineering. In his free time he enjoys playing the violin. His mentor on the project was Dr. Gary C. Tepper, Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Winning Team
A.J. Toth and Jim Andress, seniors at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, won the team category and will share a $6,000 scholarship for their project entitled, Creating a Higher-Efficiency Machine Learning Algorithm to Facilitate the Development of Cancer Treatment Drugs.
The team used novel computational procedures with active machine learning to classify certain protein mutations important in cancer suppression. This classification may lead to the development of new anticancer drugs with lower developmental costs.
"This team demonstrated strong problem solving skills, integrating computer science and biology to develop a cost effective approach for identifying novel anticancer drugs," said competition judge Tom Morley, Professor, School of Mathematics, Georgia Tech.
A.J. plans to study and pursue a career in electrical engineering. He hopes to work in management and travel as much as possible. He is an Eagle Scout, National Merit Semifinalist and AP Scholar who tutors algebra and trigonometry. A.J. sings in his church choir and played piano in the ETSBOA Jazz Clinic Blue Band in 2010 and 2011.
Jim is a National AP Scholar, National Merit Semifinalist, and national winner of the EnergySolutions Scholarship. He is the lead author of a paper submitted to "Computational Mechanics" on the Boundary Integral Method. He is vice president of his senior class and plays bass in the school jazz band and a local jazz trio. Jim plans to major in math, physics or computer science and would like to become a researcher or professor with the time and money to travel. The team's mentor on their project was Chris Symons, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The remaining regional finalists each received a $1,000 scholarship. Regional Finalists in the individual category were:
- Alexa Dantzler, Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School, Arlington, Virginia
- Jason Li, Blacksburg High School, Blacksburg, Virginia
- Jessie Li, Paul L. Dunbar High School, Lexington, Kentucky
- Brittany Wenger, The Out-of-Door Academy, Sarasota, Florida
Team Regional Finalists were:
- Archis Bhandarkar and Rohan Banerjee, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia
- Hayes Griffin and Dalton Chaffee, Bearden High School, Knoxville, Tennessee
- Nathan Kodama and Nipun Singh, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia
- Yu Wang and Kyoung-A Cho, Oak Ridge High School, Oak Ridge, Tennessee