From the nearly 1,800 who applied for the 2014 Intel Science Talent Search, only a select few – 40 truly exceptional high school seniors – were selected as finalists and invited to Washington, D.C., to present original research to judges, showcase their work, and compete for $630,000 in prizes.
On March 11, Intel announced the winners of the 2014 Intel STS at a black-tie gala at the National Building Museum.
Eric Chen, 17, of San Diego, California, won the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation for his research on potential new drugs to treat influenza. His interdisciplinary approach combined computer modeling with structural studies and biological validation to find a way to inhibit endonuclease, an enzyme essential for viral propagation. The use of supercomputers allowed Chen to conduct this research faster and more efficiently than conventional methods. Chen’s work may lead to a new class of drugs to control flu outbreaks during a pandemic, allowing time for a vaccine to be developed. In college, Chen plans to study computer science, bioengineering and math. Ultimately, he hopes to become a professor or an entrepreneur developing innovative technologies.
Second-place honors and $75,000 went to Kevin Lee, 17, of Irvine, California, for bioengineering research in which he developed a computational model to describe the shape of the heart as it beats, using the principles of fluid mechanics. This faster, more efficient model could provide insights into arrhythmia and may lead to better treatments for the disease. Lee plans to pursue studies in physics and bioengineering.
Third-place honors and $50,000 went to William Henry Kuszmaul, 17, of Lexington, Massachusetts, for combining math and computer programming in the study of modular enumeration, research which has applications in computer science, bioinformatics and computational biology. Kuszmaul has already authored or co-authored four papers about his mathematical findings, including two that were published in peer-reviewed journals, and is considering a career in computer science.
Joshua Abraham Meier, 18, of Teaneck, New Jersey, received a $40,000 award for his identification of a gene that controls the rapid aging of artificially generated stem cells, which could lead to new treatments for cancer. Meier hopes, one day, to manage a biotech company specializing in stem cell research.
Natalie Ng, 18, of Cupertino, California, received a $30,000 award for her development of a diagnostic tool to more accurately predict the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body. Natalie plans to study computer science and molecular biology in college, and to pursue a career in medical genomics.
Aron Coraor, 17, of Huntington, New York, received a $25,000 award for research that may explain why a certain mineral exists in two different forms in the highlands of the moon. Coraor hopes to become a professor of chemical engineering.
Zarin Rahman, 17, of Brookings, South Dakota, received a $25,000 award for her research on the effects of significant electronic screen exposure on adolescent sleep patterns, stress and learning. Zarin plans to become a pediatric neurologist.
Anand Srinivasan, 17, of Roswell, Georgia, received a $20,000 award for a computer science project in which he built a neural-network-based computer model, RNNScan, which “learns” patterns in DNA to predict the boundaries of certain genomic regions. This work may aid in disease screening and genome-tailored pharmaceuticals. Srinivasan plans to study computer science and applied mathematics, and to pursue a career as a scientist specializing in artificial intelligence.
John Anthony Clarke, 17, of Syosset, New York, received a $20,000 award for his research on X-ray emissions from the planet Jupiter, a gas giant that harnesses a powerful magnetic field. Clarke employed a computer simulation to demonstrate that NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array has the capability to observe the complete X-ray spectrum of Jupiter’s auroras, providing significant insight into the nature of the planet’s magnetosphere. Clarke plans to study physics and computer science in college.
Shaun Datta, 18, of North Potomac, Maryland, received a $20,000 award for research employing computer models and equations to improve the understanding of the interactions of nuclear matter. His work may contribute to a more accurate characterization of fundamental atomic particles and a better understanding of neutron stars. Datta plans to study mathematics and physics, and eventually, to become a particle physicist.