Two students from high schools in Palo Alto have advanced to the finals of a national science competition with their data project aimed at identifying premature babies most likely to develop severe gastrointestinal disease.
Gunn High School junior Helen Jiang and Palo Alto High School junior Jeffrey Ling took the top team prize in Saturday's (Nov. 5) regional finals of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, held at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
They will split the $6,000 scholarship and present their project at the Siemens National Finals in Washington, D.C., next month, where $500,000 in scholarships will be awarded, including two top prizes of $100,000.
Six teams and six individuals were selected as national finalists from 2,436 original entrants to the 2011-12 Siemens contest.
"Jeffrey and Helen used mass spectrometry in combination with clinical data, a novel approach which would give scientists and doctors the ability to predict the progression of the disease so they can optimize treatment," said Siemens competition judge Brian Williams, a staff scientist at Caltech.
"The data analysis, the team's main contribution, was done at an exceptionally high level," Williams said.
"A unique aspect of the work is that Jeffrey and Helen are planning to make the diagnostics available to physicians via smartphones."
Jiang and Ling developed their project under the direction of Stanford University pediatric surgeon Karl Sylvester.
Also competing in the Siemens regional finals over the weekend was Gunn sophomore Charles Liu, who teamed up with Johnny Ho of San Jose's Lynnbrook High School on a project using data integration to improve aerial imaging following a disaster.
An additional five Palo Alto students were among the 317 Siemens semifinalists named in October. They are Karine Hsu of Paly, and Nikhil Kumar, Divya Saini, Jean Wang and Rachel Weissman-Tsukamoto of Gunn.
The winner in the individual category at Caltech Saturday was Angela Zhang, a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino. Zhang's project aims to design a targeted gold and iron oxide-based nanoparticle with a potential to eradicate cancer stem cells through a controlled delivery of the drug salinomycin to a tumor site.