Drug, math research honored in youth competition

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2009 1:28 PM

High schoolers who delved into the mysteries of chemotherapy and graph theory won $100,000 prizes Monday at a competition honoring the nation's top math and science students.

Five other individual students and five teams won $10,000 to $50,000 in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology and were honored at a ceremony Monday at New York University.

Individual top winner Ruoy Jiang, 17, a senior at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, on New York's Long Island, said he chose his project on resistance to chemotherapy drugs because "I really wanted to do something that was challenging, that was cutting edge."

Rommie Amaro, a competition judge who's an assistant professor of pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, said Jiang's research helps clarify the way the chemotherapy drug Taxol works and suggests "an exciting and provocative prediction for the structural basis of chemotherapy resistance."

The winning team of Sean Karson, Dan Liu and Kevin Chen collaborated on a project that shed new light on a 30-year-old math problem in the field of graph theory.

Karson, 18, a senior at Trinity Preparatory High School in Winter Park, Fla., said the teammates chose their project when all three attended a six-week math camp over the summer.

Once school started, they communicated via e-mail and Web cam because Liu and Chen live in Texas. Liu is a 16-year-old junior at Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School in Austin, while Chen is a 17-year-old junior at William P. Clements High School in Sugar Land.

The team's work has already been cited by other mathemeticians working in the field, said contest judge Karen Collins, chairwoman of the department of mathematics and computer science at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

"We never expected high school students to achieve such success in examining this upper-bound aspect of graph theory," Collins said.

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The Siemens competition was begun in 1998 to recognize America's best math and science students.

Other winners of individual 2009 prizes were Lynnelle Ye of Palo Alto, Calif.; Marissa Suchyta of Chicago; Lanair Lett of Henderson, N.C.; Dmitriy "Tim" Kunisky of Livingston, N.J.; and Peter Hu of Denton, Texas. Other team winners were Neil Shah of Greensboro, N.C., and Yekaterina "Katie" Shpanskaya of Raleigh, N.C.; Xiao "Cathy" Zhou of New York City, Israt Ahmed of Woodhaven, N.Y., and Stephanie Chen of Bayside, N.Y.; Randy Jia of Rochester Hills, Mich., and David Lu of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Benjamin Song and Quan "Jack" Chen of Audubon, Pa.; and Ryan Lindeborg of Laguna Niguel, Calif., and Andrew James Swoboda of Oakton, Va.

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On the Net:

Siemens Foundation: http://www.siemens-foundation.org