Students place at Siemens Competition

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Students place at Siemens Competition

courtesy of Ella Feiner

courtesy of Ella Feiner

courtesy of Ella Feiner

Tenzin Sherpa, Staff Writer

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Brian Wu (10), Ella Feiner (12), and Brian Song (12) and Lisa Shi (12) all were semifinalists in this year’s Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, contributing to exoplanet discovery, analyzing the relationship between the spread of cancer and the cell cycle, and working on ways to identify lung cancer in its early stages.

Over 4,000 students from around the country submit a full-length STEM- based research paper to the Siemens Competition, and just over 400 projects are selected as semi- nalists. More than $600,000 in scholarships are awarded to the national nalists each year.

Wu used the radial velocity method to look for new giant planets, brown dwarfs, and old binary systems in a set of data that was collected by the University of Florida, he said.

“The goal of the radial velocity technique is to discover stellar companions by observing the ‘wobble’ caused by the gravitational forces exerted by the planet on the star,” Wu said.

“I chose to participate in the research competition because I was actually really interested in how the radial velocity method worked,” Wu said. Wu worked on the project from May and late August at the University of Florida, he said.

About a couple of years ago, Wu read in the news that NASA discovered new exoplanets and some of these were suitable for people to live on, he said. “I wanted to contribute to exoplanet discovery, so I decided to use a ground based technique [radial velocity],” Wu said.

Throughout his research, he found five new giant planets, Wu said.

Feiner worked on developing a visual tool that determines cell cycle state, which she used in order to observe the cell cycle in zebra sh embryos. She applied that sensor to look at the relationship between cell cycle regulation and cancer metastasis, the processwheretumorcellsmoveintothe bloodstream and spread throughout the body, Feiner said.

Feiner tested cancer drugs that no one had ever tested in vertebrates before in sh, she said. “I looked at the implications of these drugs on developmental processes that closely resemble metastasis,” she said.

“I was part of the program for seven weeks, and during that time I worked a lot because my project was really time sensitive,” she said. e project was dependent on the ages of the sh in hours, so Feiner was o en there until midnight or one a.m., she said.

“I was more interested in the applications of developmental biology, not just understanding how we develop, but how it is relevant to understanding disease,” she said.

Song and Shi collaborated on one project using bioinformatic approaches to identify mRNA biomarkers in blood for non-invasive early diagnosis of lung cancer, Song said.

Bioinformatics uses so ware and statistical tools to interpret biological data, Song said. “I had to use statistical tools to nd which mRNAs were di erentially expressed in lung cancer, which pointed to genes that could be used as biomarkers,” he said.

Shi and Song used biomarkers to determine whether they could help diagnose lung cancer in its early stages.

“Lung cancer’s a huge killer, and an early diagnosis can really help improve survival rates,” Shi said.

Since Shi and Song intern at Mt. Sinai in the Bioinformatics department, it made sense to do something using a bioinformatic approach, Shi said.

“I chose to participate in the competition because I wanted to take the opportunity to share the research I have been working on for over a year in a nationwide competition,” Song said.

Shi ended up presenting her portion of the data at a genetics conference in Orlando, she said.