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UNT Insider | May 2009 Issue | TAMS student named Presidential Scholar, will meet Obama

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UNT TAMS student named Presidential Scholar, will meet Obama

From a UNT News Service press release

Sameer Deshpande, a student at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, is among 141 high school graduates in the nation selected as 2009 Presidential Scholars.

Deshpande, 18, of Carrollton, will travel to Washington, D.C. June 20-24 to meet with President Barack Obama and other dignitaries.

"This is really quite humbling," says Deshpande, who plans to study mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall. "It's such an honor it's difficult to describe."

While at TAMS, Deshpande undertook two high-level research projects that aimed to find solutions to real-life problems.

In one project, Deshpande worked with Retractable Technologies Inc. of Little Elm to determine the best material for a new non-reusable safety syringe that aims to reduce accidental needle-stick injuries, the chief means of transmission of HIV and Hepatitis B among health-care professionals.

Each year in the United States, an estimated 800,000 accidental needlestick injuries occur among health care workers, according to Retractable Technologies.

The company's needle is automatically and instantly retracted from the patient into the barrel of the syringe. When this happens, the syringe is rendered non-reusable, and the contaminated needle cannot prick the medical worker.

Working with Witold Brostow, a UNT Regents Professor in materials science and engineering, Deshpande analyzed which materials would have the longest shelf life and how different polymers would withstand the necessary sterilization used on medical supplies.

In another project, Deshpande conducted research to identify genes associated with patient survival of a disease. That could allow researchers to study a practical number of genes to target during therapy and to construct models that could use genetic data from a DNA microarray to predict a patient's chance of survival. Deshpande's mentor on the project was Qiang Zhao, assistant professor of mathematics, at Texas State University.

That research earned Deshpande a spot in the regional finals of the national Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

Both projects undoubtedly contributed to Deshpande being named a Presidential Scholar.

The Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to honor outstanding academic achievement among graduating high school seniors. A 29-member commission selected the scholars based on academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

The 141 Presidential Scholars include one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Fifteen at-large students and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts were also chosen.

Past presidential scholars include CEOs, professors, artists, stage and screen stars, leading medical doctors, world-renowned scientists, award-winning journalists, successful attorneys and community leaders.

Deshpande attended the private Greenhill School in Addison before arriving at TAMS. He decided to enroll at TAMS because he wanted more challenging mathematics courses. He is the son of Kirtikumar and Achala Deshpande.

After he graduates from MIT, Deshpande hopes to continue his studies in mathematics, finding new mathematical methods to research a variety of problems.

TAMS is a two-year residential program at UNT that allows talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while earning their high school diplomas.

Sarah Bahari with UNT News Service can be reached at Sarah.bahari@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

May 2009

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