From the 1,750 high school seniors who applied for the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search, 300 were chosen as semifinalists and a mere 40 named as finalists in the competition. These select few were invited to Washington, D.C., for a week in March, where they presented original research to judges, showcased their work at the National Geographic Society, and competed for a piece of more than $1 million in prizes awarded through the event.
On March, 15, at a black-tie gala at the National Building Museum, winners were announced.
Three first-place Medal of Distinction awards and prizes of $150,000 were presented to winners in three categories: Basic Research, Global Good, and Innovation. Second- and third-place winners in each category received awards of $75,000 and $35,000, respectively. The remaining finalists received awards of $7,500.
In total, more than $1 million was awarded to finalists, semifinalists, and their schools through the competition.
Of note, this year for the first time in the event’s 75-year history, female finalists outnumbered male finalists by a small margin (21 girls to 19 guys). These young women made a strong show at the competition, winning two of the top three prizes.
“This milestone is an inspiring sign of progress toward closing the gender gap in technology and engineering,” said Rosalind Hudnell, vice president in Human Resources, director of Corporate Affairs at Intel Corporation and president of the Intel Foundation, “and we hope these finalists’ outstanding work will inspire young people from all backgrounds to develop their interests in these fields.”
Here, meet the winners.
Recognizes finalists who demonstrate exceptional scientific potential through depth of research and analysis, which is critical to conducting basic or fundamental research.
Amol Punjabi, 17, of Marlborough, Massachusetts, won the First Place Medal of Distinction for Basic Research, for developing software that could help drug makers create new therapies for cancer and heart disease. He is the lead author of a paper on nanoparticles published in ACS Nano and co-author of a paper on a related topic in Nanoscale.
Rewards finalists who demonstrate great scientific potential through their passion to make a difference,most notably by seeking solutions to real-world problems.
Paige Brown, 17, of Bangor, Maine, won the First Place Medal of Distinction for Global Good, for her research on the water quality of six environmentally impaired local streams with high E. coli and phosphate contamination levels. She is currently developing a cost-effective filter largely made of calcium alginate strands to remove the phosphate from stormwater systems.
Celebrates finalists whose great potential is exemplified by applying the problem-solving aptitude of an engineer through innovative design and creativity.
Maya Varma, 17, of Cupertino, California, won the First Place Medal of Distinction for Innovation creating a low-cost, smartphone-based lung analyzer. Using just $35 worth of hobbyist electronics and free computer-aided design tools, Varma’s device diagnoses lung disease as accurately as expensive devices currently used in medical laboratories.
Meena Jagadeesan, 17, of Naperville, Illinois, investigated an object in algebraic combinatorics, or the mathematics of counting, to reveal a novel relationship between classes of graphs.
Michael Zhang, 18, of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, engineered tiny virus-like particles to deliver gene-modifying proteins to target cells for medical therapy by altering the genome of those cells in a controlled way.
Milind Jagota, 18, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, studied the performance of random nanowire networks as a less costly alternative to the transparent conductors now used in touchscreen devices.
Kunal Shroff, 17, of Great Falls, Virginia, discovered new relationships between the key protein associated with Huntington’s disease and the biological processes of cellular death that cause Huntington’s symptoms. His work may lead to new treatments.
Nathan Charles Marshall (Nate), 17, of Boise, Idaho, studied a marine sediment core sample and related it to present-day climate change, concluding that Earth can recover from current climate change trends if action is taken soon.
Kavya Ravichandran, 17, of Westlake, Ohio, studied the use of nanomedicine to destroy potentially fatal blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.