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Biology And Mathematics Research Pays Off For Iowa And Indiana Students With Siemens Competition Regional Win At University Of Notre Dame

















SOUTH BEND, Ind., Nov. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Months of dedication and hard work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) paid off tonight for three students named National Finalists in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, the nation's premier research competition.  Biology research on the genetic basis of cancer earned top honors and the $3,000 Individual scholarship for James Howe of Iowa City, Iowa.  Mathematical analysis of genetic oscillatory networks won the $6,000 Team scholarship for Daniel Fu and Patrick Tan of Carmel, Indiana.

The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges from the University of Notre Dame, host of the Region Three Finals.  They are now invited to present their work on a national stage at the National Finals in Washington, DC, December 1-4, 2012, where $500,000 in scholarships will be awarded, including two top prizes of $100,000.  The Siemens Competition, a signature program of the Siemens Foundation, is administered by the College Board.

"These students have invested time, energy and talent in tackling challenging scientific research at a young age," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation.  "The recognition they have won today demonstrates that engagement in STEM is an investment well worth making."

The Winning Individual

James Howe, a senior at Regina High School in Iowa City, Iowa, won the individual category and a $3,000 college scholarship for his investigation of missense mutations in the protein BMPR1A as seen in juvenile polyposis patients.  In his project, BMPR1A Mutations in Juvenile Polyposis Affect Cellular Localization, James found that these mutations caused a mislocalization of BMPR1A in cells.

"Inherited mutations that drive tumor formation predispose patients to malignancy in adulthood. James developed a model to study known mutations in juvenile polyposis, a disease that predisposes patients to colon cancer," said competition judge Dr. Laurie Littlepage, Campbell Family Assistant Professor of Cancer Research, the University of Notre Dame and the Harper Cancer Research Institute.  "His research is foundational to understanding the nature of this gene in a pre-diagnostic cancer context.  It demonstrated a mechanism (i.e. protein localization) by which a single mutation can drive catastrophic consequences in the cell."

James enjoys playing football, participating in his school's debate team and Key Club, and tutoring his schoolmates in math and science.  He plans on majoring in biology or biochemistry and would like to become a doctor.  His mentor was Dr. James Howe, Director of Surgical Oncology, University of Iowa.

The Winning Team

Daniel Fu, a junior at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Patrick Tan, a junior at Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, won the team category and will share a $6,000 scholarship for their project Chaos and Robustness in a Single Family of Genetic Oscillatory Networks, an investigation of new techniques for mathematically analyzing genetic oscillatory networks. 

The team's research could lead to better treatments for diseases with irregularities in the cell cycle, such as cancer, or the circadian rhythm, such as sleep disorders.  Daniel and Patrick's inspiration came from the movie Inception, which explores the mysteries of sleep. 

"Daniel and Patrick developed an original technique and made progress in the mathematical understanding of delayed differential equations, which help understand the cyclical biological behavior such as exhibited in sleep and cancer," said competition judge Dr. Matthew Dyer, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics, the University of Notre Dame.  "The team showed creativity in combining pure and applied mathematics and making extensive use of computer calculations."  

Daniel is a member of USA Computing Olympiad Silver Division and won fourth place in the American Chemistry Society exam, Indiana section.  He is secretary of the student council, editor of his school newspaper and junior editor of the literary art magazine.  He volunteers in cancer clinics and mentors other students in STEM.  Daniel is considering a major in computer science or political science and hopes to either be a research professor or politician.  In the near future, he is most excited about attending The Hague International Model United Nations in the Netherlands.

Patrick is secretary of Key Club, president of Chemistry Club and a member of Top Symphonic Band.  He volunteers with Habitats for Humanity and runs cross country.  He is especially proud of co-founding the DPY Math Contest for middle school students, which helps prepare them for the MATHCOUNTS competition.  Patrick plans to study biochemistry, applied mathematics and finance in college and aspires to have a career where he can combine math and science with his desire to help people.

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