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UNT Insider | November 2007 Issue | TAMS students honored

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TAMS students honored in Siemens Westinghouse science competition

From a UNT News Service press release

Four Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science students were named regional finalists and 14 were named semifinalists in the 2007 Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

The academy has more semifinalists than any other school in Texas and the nation and has more regional finalists than any other Texas school. In addition, TAMS has the third-highest number of regional finalists in the nation.

The academy is a two-year residential program at UNT that allows talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while earning the equivalent of high school diplomas. Students enroll in the academy following their sophomore year in high school, live in a UNT residence hall and attend UNT classes with college students. After two years, they enroll at UNT or another university to finish their bachelor's degrees.

The Siemens Westinghouse Competition was established in 1999 and is funded by the Siemens Foundation. The competition recognizes high school research in mathematics and science. Students may submit individual projects or projects conducted with one or two other students.

Up to 300 students and student teams are selected as semifinalists. The 14 TAMS students were among 38 Texas students selected as semifinalists this year. Up to 30 individual students and 30 student teams are also selected as regional finalists. Regional finalists present a poster display of their research and give a 12-minute presentation to a panel of judges at one of six regional competitions on university campuses.

Jerry Du of Plano, Thomas Krenik of Garland, Vinay Ramasesh of Fort Worth and Samuel Thompson of Brownfield were among 15 Texas students chosen as regional finalists. They presented their research projects at the Region Two Competition Nov. 2-3 at the University of Texas at Austin. All were second-year TAMS students, and all submitted their research projects as individuals.

For his research project, Du worked in the laboratory of Jin Jiang Advincula, associate professor in the Departments of Developmental Biological and Pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He studied a chemical chain reaction that regulates embryonic development called the Hedgehog Signaling pathway. Mutations in this pathway have been known to cause cancer, organ malformation and other diseases and medical conditions. Du discovered several proteins that regulate the pathway.

Krenik worked at the University of Texas at Dallas' NanoTech Institute with Shaoli Fang, a research scientist in the institute, and Ray Baughman, the institute's director and the Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry at UTD. Krenik researched the properties of carbon nanotube yarns, which may be used in the future to create clothes that keep track of the wearer's temperature and other vital signs, and even heat up or cool down depending on the weather.

Ramasesh worked in the laboratory of Angela Wilson, UNT associate professor of chemistry. He researched a class of quantum mechanical methods called local methods, which are used to calculate the potential energy of molecular systems.

Thompson worked in the laboratory of Zhibing Hu, UNT Regents Professor of physics. He researched thermosensitive polymers, or "smart gels," which have applications in the biomedical field because they swell and shrink in response to temperature changes. These gels could be placed in pills to better deliver drugs into a person with a fever, since the gels will contract and squeeze out medication in response to an increased body temperature.

One individual regional finalist and one team regional finalist will be selected from the Southwestern Region Competition and the other five regional competitions to compete in the Siemens Westinghouse Competition's National Finals in December. Each student or team selected for the finals receive silver medals and scholarships, with individuals receiving $2,000 and teams receiving $6,000 to be divided equally among team members. Second-place winners of the regional competitions receive $1,000 scholarships and bronze medals.

The top individual and top team in the National Finals each receives $100,000 scholarships. Runners-up receive scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

TAMS students named semifinalists in this year's competition, all second-year students, were:

  • Osbert Bastani from Plano. Bastani worked with John Quintanilla, UNT associate professor of mathematics.
  • Eileen Chen from Plano. Chen worked in the laboratory of Zhibing Hu.
  • Vidya Eswaran from Houston. Eswaran worked with Elsa R. Flores, assistant professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology at the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
  • Nupur Grover from Flower Mound, Harry Han from Austin and Kshitij Manchanda from Plano. The three worked in the laboratory of Jannon Fuchs, UNT professor of biological sciences.
  • Jaimin Patel from Carrollton and Joel Paulson from Arlington. Patel and Paulson worked in the laboratory of Rebecca Dickstein, UNT associate professor of biological sciences.
  • Amy Proctor from Austin. Proctor worked with Jian Shen, associate professor of mathematics at Texas State University in San Marcos.
  • Ratul Pujari from Garland. Pujari worked in UNT's Laboratory of Advanced Polymers and Optimized Materials under Witold Brostow, professor of materials science.
  • Ananth Ram from Plano. Ram, who was named a semifinalist in the Siemens Westinghouse competition in 2006, worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Margaret Ackerman, doctoral candidate in the Departments of Biological Engineering and Chemical Engineering.
  • Robert Rogers from Cedar Hill. Rogers worked at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center with Dinesh Rakheja, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology.
  • Jonathan Too from Coppell. Too worked in UNT's Laboratory of Advanced Polymers and Optimized Materials under Witold Brostow.
  • Di Wu from Plano. Wu worked with John Quintanilla.

UNT News Service Press Release
Nancy Kolsti can be reached at nkolsti@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

November 2007

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