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Indian American wins Intel Science Competition

March 24
01:25 2012

Seven desi kids among 40 finalists

NEW YORK: Michigan student Nithin Reddy Tumma, 17, has won the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search, bagging $100,000 in prize money for his research on devising a more effective and less toxic breast cancer treatment.
Two other Indian American students – Neel Patel from Florida and Anirudh Prabhu from Indiana – were among the top 10 winners of the science competition.

In fact, of the 40 finalists in the competition, seven were Indian Americans who represent the nation’s most promising high school seniors with the greatest potential to solve pressing challenges in the world. All 40 finalists had the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House.

The Intel Science Talent Search is the country’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition, where participants are judged on both their original scientific research and on their achievement and leadership, inside and outside the classroom.

“The US needs these talented innovators to go as far and as fast as they can, solving the world’s most critical challenges, imagining – and creating – a new and better future for us all,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation.

“Math and science are the language and tools of this innovation – that’s why Intel is so proud to invest in these students, and to advance math and science education for all students.”

Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, has owned and administered the Science Talent Search since its inception in 1942.

“Tackling real-world challenges from cancer to Internet security to alternative energy solutions, this year’s finalists are a true inspiration,” said Society President Elizabeth Marincola. “We join with Intel in congratulating them on this tremendous honor, and commend the mentors, teachers, schools, parents and communities that have contributed to their success.”

The Winner

Nithin Reddy Tumma

Nithin Reddy Tumma of Fort Gratiot investigated the signaling pathways involved in cancer progression for the biochemistry project he submitted to the Intel Science Talent Search. Using techniques to measure activated protein levels in cultured breast cell lines at varying stages of malignancy, he characterized two biochemical pathways that play a role in cancer pathogenesis, specifically identifying the role of a protein (gC1qR) in the evolution and immune-evasion of cancers.

He believes his study clarified some of the mechanisms by which cells become malignant and, by defining the signaling pathways involved in the process, provided new targets for novel cancer treatments. First in his class of 332 at Port Huron Northern High School, Nithin is an award-winning varsity tennis player, the leading scorer on the varsity Quiz Bowl team and co-founder and captain of the robotics team. He is also the founder of a district-wide math circle for gifted students and a research club for middle school children.

A volunteer for the Port Huron Museum, he created an online database of historical information and initiated a program to restore local landmarks. Fluent in Telugu, Nithin is the son of Suresh and Kavita Tumma.

The other Finalists
Saurabh Sharan, 18, of Cupertino, proposed a novel algorithm as his computer science project that may improve image and photo recognition

Saurabh Sharan

software. Saurabh created an improved automated method to accurately identify the shapes and sizes of cells in digital microscopic images.
He tested his new system on a public database of cell images and reported that it outperformed the current state-of-the-art in two different measures of accuracy. Saurabh’s design could lead to significant improvements in the automated tools used by clinicians and researchers to examine cells in biologic samples. Saurabh says the idea for his project came from watching characters on a popular TV show try to enhance grainy images from a security camera using photo recognition software. Saurabh attends Bellarmine College Preparatory School in San Jose, where he is founder and president of the programming club and vice president of its national champion robotics team.

The son of Atul and Preeti Sharan, Saurabh plays jazz trombone and counts golf, swimming, photography and yoga among his hobbies. His ambition is to pursue a long career in computer science and make meaningful contributions to image recognition technology.

Neel Sanjay Patel

Neel Sanjay Patel, 17, of Geneva, studied how non-speech patterns of sounds, called sonifications, can convey information for his behavioral and social sciences project submitted to the Intel Science Talent Search. Sonifications can represent information in the same way that a line graph represents a data trend: for example using increasing pitch or loudness to indicate an upwards sloping line.

His four-year study focused on how sonifications are perceived, how accurately they are understood and the mental activities required for comprehension. He found that people can interpret and recreate data they can hear with a high degree of accuracy.

As part of his research, Neel developed SonicGraph, a user-customizable tool kit that allows users to create sonifications from data sets. He believes that sonification could be as revolutionary as the graphical user interface was 30 years ago.

An Eagle Scout, Neel is first in his class of 483 at Oviedo High School, and has varsity letters in swimming and water polo. He is the lead author of two papers delivered at professional conferences and a paper accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The son of Sanjay and Nita Patel, he hopes to change the world through science.

Anirudh Prabhu, 17, of West Lafayette, investigated perfect numbers, an ancient subject in number theory dating from Euclid’s work around

Anirudh Prabhu

300 B.C., for his project in mathematics. A perfect number is one which equals the sum of all its proper divisors, such as 6 = 1 + 2 + 3.

There are 47 known perfect numbers, all even. Anirudh considered the odd case, and gave the first non-trivial analytic lower bound for odd perfect numbers, a bound in terms of the number of distinct prime divisors. By improving his lower bounds and also improving known upper bounds, one could hope to show that no odd perfect numbers exist.

Anirudh is sole author of a paper describing his findings, published in the International Journal of Contemporary Mathematics, and was also first author of a publication in the peer-reviewed journal Integral Transforms and Special Functions. Anirudh attends West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School, where he is president of the math club and the Red Cross Club, which he co-founded in 2010.

He was crowned Homecoming King in the fall of 2011. Anirudh enjoys playing tennis and ping-pong, and is the son of Nagabhushana and Rajini Prabhu.

Siddhartha Gautama Jena

Siddhartha Gautama Jena, 18, of Bloomfield Hills, conducted a three-year study of the effect of excess cholesterol on the ability of red blood cells to transport water, oxygen and carbon dioxide for his medicine and health project.

By measuring the movement of these life-sustaining molecules into and out of red blood cells in the presence and absence of elevated cholesterol, Siddhartha demonstrated that excess cholesterol impaired their transport. He also found that a common treatment for Type II diabetes, glyburide, and a compound called ONO-RS-O82 can offset these detrimental effects of elevated cholesterol. He hopes that this new understanding will result in the early diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with elevated cholesterol.

Siddhartha attends International Academy, is active on the Science Olympiad team and the student council, and is co-founder of an event to raise funds for educational infrastructure in poor countries. He has earned awards for both solo and ensemble piano performances and as a saxophone soloist. The son of Bhanu and Minakhi Jena, Siddhartha is first author on a paper related to this project published in the Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry.

Neil Kamlesh Mehta, 17, of Jericho, NY, entered a biochemistry project in the competition investigating the effects of a gene mutation associated with schizophrenia on a protein of neuregulin-1, which is considered a schizophrenia susceptibility gene. Neil’s study identified this mutation as the cause for a significant reduction in intracellular signals resulting in improper neural connections, presenting abnormalities similar to those found in brains of patients with schizophrenia.

He believes his research presents an avenue for uncovering the possible causes for subsets of the disease and demonstrates the potential of

Neil Kamlesh Mehta

optogenetics, the use of particular frequencies of light to achieve restoration of protein signaling and, in turn, of receptor and protein expression.
He believes this use of light stimulation may point to future treatment for this debilitating mental disorder that afflicts one percent of the U.S. population. The son of Kamlesh and Alpana Mehta, Neil provides extensive math and science tutoring to younger peers before and after school.
He is captain of the badminton and bowling teams and a member of the debate club at Jericho Senior High School, and he hopes to earn a Ph.D. in neurobiology.

India Post News Service

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