Following a week-long celebration of science at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Intel Corporation and Society for Science & the Public announced the top award winners for 2014.
Nathan Han, 15, Boston, Massachusetts, received top honors with the Gordon E. Moore Award and a USD 75,000 prize. Lennart Kleinwort, 15, Wurzburg, Germany, and Shannon Lee, 17, Singapore, each received an Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and a USD 50,000 scholarship.
In addition, more than 400 Intel ISEF competitors received scholarships and prizes for innovative research presented at the competition. This included 17 "Best of Category" winners, as well as grants to the winners' schools and their Intel ISEF-affiliated fairs.
Intel ISEF awards included more than USD 5 million in scholarships and prizes.
Nathan Han, 15, of Boston, Massachusetts, won the Gordon E. Moore Award for developing a machine learning software tool to study mutations of a gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer. Using data from publicly available databases, Han examined detailed characteristics of mutations of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene, vital in protecting cells from developing cancer, in order to “teach” his software to differentiate between mutations that cause disease and those that do not. His tool exhibits an 81 percent accuracy rate and could be used to more accurately identify cancer threats from BRCA1 gene mutations. Applications for Han’s research extend from identifying specific mutations that cause cancer and other diseases, to advancements in the fields of genomics, bioinformatics and big data. The Gordon E. Moore Award, named in honor of the Intel co-founder and retired chairman/CEO, includes USD 75,000 in scholarship funds.
Runners-up honors went to two individuals named as Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award winners. Each of these students received USD 50,000 in scholarship funds for their ground-breaking projects. Lennart Kleinwort, 15, of Wurzburg, Germany, developed a new mathematical tool for smartphones and tablets that brings capabilities to hand-held devices, previously available only with more sophisticated and expensive computing tools. His app allows users to draw curves, lines and geometric figures on the touch screen and watch the system render them into shapes and equations that can then be manipulated at will. Kleinwort’s software could enable users to perform a wide variety of complicated functions, making mathematics instruction more interesting to students, extending knowledge of mathematics systems, and increasing the potential for new discoveries.
Shannon Lee, 17, of Singapore, developed a novel electrocatalyst that may significantly improve batteries of the future. Researchers have been looking for ways to make rechargeable zinc-air batteries practical, as they offer superior energy storage to lithium ion batteries (with six times the energy density), and are both safer and lighter in weight. Lee found that her activated carbon catalyst, which she made entirely from carbonized Chinese eggplant, greatly outperformed a more sophisticated commercial catalyst in stability and longevity tests, plus offers the added benefits of being environmentally friendly and inexpensive to produce. Lee’s work may have a wide range of applications, such as improving the energy performance of hybrid vehicles.