Gunn High School sophomore Joy Jin is part of a two-person team that will compete nationally against five other teams next month for the top $100,000 prize in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
Jin and her partner, Thomas Luh, a junior at San Jose's Leland High School, edged out four other west coast teams to take the $6,000 "team prize" in regional finals held at the California Institute of Technology over the weekend.
This year's Siemens competition initially drew 2,255 teen entries in both the individual and team categories.
Jin and Luh's project involves targeting the relationship between two proteins critical in the formation and development of lung cancer. Their mentor is Hu Li of the thoracic oncology lab at UCSF's Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"Thomas and Joy have uncovered a potentially important mechanism of lung cancer metastasis," said competition judge Jim Heath, a professor of chemistry at Caltech.
"Metastatic cancers are almost always deadly and so it is hard to think of a more important problem in oncology. Their work has the potential to lead to new and effective therapies. They are a remarkably gifted team."
Jin, who volunteers at the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, took up figure skating at the age of four and holds the record as the youngest individual to qualify for the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship. She was a gold medalist in the 2013 U.S. National Figure Skating Solo Dance Championships and earned the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Special Achievement Award.
She is vice-president of Gunn's Chinese Culture Club and a member of Model United Nations.
She is considering college majors in molecular biology, neuroscience and cancer biology and hopes to become a surgeon or oncology researcher.
In the "individual" category, the top regional prize went to Raghav Tripathi, a senior at Westview High School in Portland, Ore., whose biochemistry project identified a potential anti-inflammatory drug that may reduce side-effects and addiction associated with modern painkillers.
Tripathi, Jin and Luh will present their projects at the national finals in Washington D.C. Dec. 1-4, where $500,000 in prizes will be awarded, including the top team and individual prizes of $100,000 each.
Last year, Helen Jiang of Gunn and Jeffrey Ling of Palo Alto High School advanced to the Siemens finals, where they took a $10,000 team prize for a data project aimed at identifying premature babies most likely to develop severe gastrointestinal disease.
Among the other four teams competing in this year's Caltech regional finals was Castilleja School student Caroline Debs of Monte Sereno, who teamed with Zareen Choudhury of the Harker School on an astrophysics project. Another team was comprised of Arjun Balasingam and Namrata Balasingam of Archbishop Mitty High School.
Several other Harker students, including Paulomi Bhattacharya, Ashvin Swaminathan and Rohan Chandra, competed in the individual category.