The world cup of science fairs

Forget baking soda volcanoes and lima beans in paper towels. The fourteen high school students at the recent BIO International Convention in Chicago were more interested in how to differentiate stem cells into pancreatic endoderm, which factors inhibit cell proliferation in glioblastomas, and why an antioxidant has anti-angiogenic effects on epithelial ovarian cancer. "We enjoy it,"

By | May 28, 2010

Forget baking soda volcanoes and lima beans in paper towels. The fourteen high school students at the recent BIO International Convention in Chicago were more interested in how to differentiate stem cells into pancreatic endoderm, which factors inhibit cell proliferation in glioblastomas, and why an antioxidant has anti-angiogenic effects on epithelial ovarian cancer. "We enjoy it," smiles Raina Jain of Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the first-place winner of this year's linkurl:sanofi-aventis International BioGENEius Challenge,;http://www.biotechinstitute.org/programs/biogeneius_challenge.html which held its final competition at this year's BIO convention at the beginning of May. Get ready MIT and CalTech -- these aren't your average high school students. Jain spent two and a half years working on her research with Matthias Falk, a cell biologist at Lehigh University, after contacting him during her freshman year of high school and asking to him to "give [her] a try" in his lab. For her prize-winning project, Jain -- her mother is a physician and her father a material scientist -- tested how the surface roughness of bioglass, a bioactive material currently used in dental implants, influences the adhesion of precursor osteoblast cells.
The four winners with Allan Jarvis of sanofi-aventis and Paul Hanle, head of the Biotechnology Institute
Image courtesy of The Biotechnology Institute
Jain made the glass based on established procedures, then polished pieces to various degrees of roughness. To test how well precursor bone cells stuck to it, Jain used immunofluorescence staining to detect the presence of vinculin, a cytoskeletal protein involved in adhesion. She found that cells adhere better to smoother surfaces, an insight that could help researchers someday develop bone implants. "I'd like to keep working on this," says Jain. "One discovery leads to tons more questions." As the winner of the national competition, Jain won more than a blue ribbon: She netted a cool $7,500, which she plans to save for college. Jain competed against thirteen other young scientists from the U.S., Canada, and Western Australia at this year's event, which recognizes outstanding student research in biotechnology. Sherwin Wu, a senior at Detroit Country Day School in Novi, Michigan took home second place for his project, "Glucosaminyl (N-acetyl) Transferase 2 (GCNT2) Gene Expression Highly Influences Breast Cancer Metastasis and Promotes an Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT)." Anirudh Saraswathula from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Oak Hill, Virginia won third place for his work to derive pancreatic endoderm from human stem cells in vivo. "Human stem cells are difficult to culture," remarks Saraswathula. "They're quirky." Saraswathula worked on the project with a professor at Georgetown University through a mentorship program at his school. And like any good scientist, he hopes to publish soon.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Blogging biology;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/55349/
[23rd January 2009]*linkurl: Science 'Magnet' High School Programs Growing In Popularity, Variety;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/17177/
[16th September 1996]

Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

May 28, 2010

These kids are amazing! Students like the BioGENEiuses really are the future of science in the U.S. and it's great to see them get support and recoginition for their hard work and enthusiasm in science research.
Avatar of: JAMES STEVENS

JAMES STEVENS

Posts: 2

May 28, 2010

This is a great competition and the students are very deserving. Congratulations to them and the competition sponsors. However, I would not call that competition the "World Cup of Science Fairs" since it is not even a science fair. That label really applies the the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair which is conducted each year by Society for Science and the Public. That competition is the international finals of all high school science fair projects in the world. This year it was held in San Jose California, had over 1,500 students involved from 60 countries and the top winners received $75,000 and $50,000 scholarships respectively. Two of the winners also received an expense paid trip to the Nobel Prize Ceremonies in December. Over $8.M in scholarships, trips, awards were given this year.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

May 28, 2010

I'm happy for the recipients and the $7500 they were awarded, or, rather, earned. Care to compare that to what top high school athletes receive, e.g., full scholarships to university? (Non-Americans: university can be $50,000 for each of 4 years)
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

May 28, 2010

Patriotism Warranted\nI have never been a flag-waver. In fact, I left the United States as a "thirty-something". I'd been a back-packing university student throughout Europe. I fell in love with the Old Continent and have been living here for over 20 years now. Now, as a "fifty-something", I can assure you that no European country (tho France is not bad) recognizes young researchers like the United States. When I see how young Americans feel as if they can do and be anything because of the encouragement and resources that they've received along the way, it contrasts greatly with European youth who feel as if they can do little because no one will give them a chance. I printed this article and passed it around because politics aside, giving young people hopes and dreams is something the old continent could study from us. Thanks for dedicating valuable editorial space to young people.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 6

May 28, 2010

It would be nice to see kids from more representative families achieve this sort of experience/exposure at an early age.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 4

May 28, 2010

Their topics are so advanced, it's hard to beleive they are just in high school! Really high achievers. What about the 4th young lady holding an award- you didn't write anything about her.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

May 30, 2010

its really feel proud that these champs are doing a incredible experiments and i feel proud that i am a science student. Perhaps i want to be like you all.
Avatar of: Megan Scudellari

Megan Scudellari

Posts: 9

May 31, 2010

The fourth place winner was Stephanie Axelson, a senior at Airline High School in Bossier City, Louisiana. Her project was titled "Identification of a New Link in Gene Silencing: Acetylation of the Methyl Binding Protein MeCP2."\n\n-Megan Scudellari, author
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

May 31, 2010

As someone who has mentored numerous students who have gone to both the International Science Fair and the Biogenius Competition I want to stress the imporance of mentoring high school students. The experince is beyond any expectation when you watch the next generation of young scientists grow and achieve under your wing. The students I have mentored in high school continue working as interns in my lab during college and many have gone onto graduate or medical programs. \n\nI strongly recommend that everyone find a way to get involved with your local science fair committee. Its imporant that scientist get involved with young folks sooner to encourage them further.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 7, 2010

unbelievable what these students have achieved, congratulations. I'm interested to see if the study of the 'surface roughness of bioglass, a bioactive material currently used in dental implants, influences the adhesion of precursor osteoblast cells' can be extended to bone implants; what a discovery that would be and made possible by a high school student. \n\n

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