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Bone Growth Project Wins Isha Jain $100K Prize

India-West Staff Reporter

Isha Himani Jain, a high school senior who did pioneering research on zebra fish bone growth, won the top individual prize and a $100,000 scholarship at the 2007-08 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology Dec. 3.

A resident of Bethlehem, Pa., where she is a senior at Freedom High School, she told India-West that attending the four-day competition, the most prestigious science contest in the U.S., was a "phenomenal experience."

She said organizers of the contest, run by the Siemens Foundation and administered by the College Board, as first-rate hosts to the young student, demonstrated an appreciation of "the real value of what pure science is."

Jain attributed her victory to the fact that her research may have "broad applications" for human bone research.

Jain's project, "Bone Growth in Zebra Fish Fins Occurs via Multiple Pulses of Cell Proliferation," adds a "new dimension to our understanding of human bone growth and our ability to treat bone injuries and disorders," the Siemens Foundation said in a statement.

Judge Stephen J. Moorman, associate professor of neuroscience and cell biology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, amplified: "Scientists and parents alike know that growth is not linear but occurs in spurts."

Jain, he added, "is the first to identify mini spurts, a cellular mechanism that underlies growth spurts on a molecular level. This is graduate level work."

Jain's research has been published in "Developmental Dynamics," a journal on developmental biology.

A member of the Endocrine Society, American Physiological Society and American Ceramic Society, her hobbies include Indian classical and modern dance, soccer, skiing and jewelry making. She also won first place award in the animal sciences category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2007.

Jain told India-West that her parents, Himanshu and Dr. Sweety Jain, an engineering professor in glass materials and a family practitioner, respectively, were overjoyed by her accomplishment.

Her mother's dedication to the medical profession sparked her interest in clinical research and her father's global research work raised her awareness of the importance of science.

Jain has applied for early admission to Yale and is also considering Harvard, MIT or Princeton. She plans to study biology and mathematics and hopes to head a lab focused on the two disciplines.

For the first time in the contest's nine-year history, girls swept both the individual and team top awards at the Siemens finals, held at New York University this year.

Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, N.Y., will share equally a $100,000 prize in the team category for their research on tuberculosis.

The three top winners will also ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in February.

Vivek Bhattacharya, a senior and class valedictorian at William G. Enloe High School in Raleigh, N.C., was on the team that placed second.

He will split a $50,000 scholarship with classmates Hao Lian and Daniel Vitek for genetic research that may allow scientists to "determine the translational efficiency of a given protein sequence, which could help increase production of biologically and medically-important recombinant or man-made proteins."

A resident of Cary, N.C., Bhattacharya has won 11 science medals, including five gold, at state and regional science Olympiads.

He credits his parents for piquing his interest in science. His mother specializes in econometrics and his father works at IBM.

Bhattacharya learned to read and write before he was two. In ninth grade, he founded the National Enloe Mathematical Olympiad, a math competition for middle school students.

Bhattacharya said he wants to study economics and physics and "become chief economist at Goldman Sachs or chairman of the Federal Reserve."

Ayon Sen of Austin, Texas, won third place and a $30,000 scholarship in the individual competition. A senior at Westwood High School, his earth/atmospheric science engineering research "expands the general knowledge of ocean mixing, which has implications for the global climate system."

Sen said that math and science caught his interest after he read "Fermat's Enigma" by Simon Singh. His father is a professor of geophysics and his mother, a computer scientist, has a master's in zoology. Sen also won first place in two prestigious national piano competitions.

Nandani Sarma, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, in Prairie Village, Kan., won fourth place and a $20,000 scholarship in the individual category.

A resident of Overland Park, Kan., her microbiology and virology research could reveal "a possible way of preventing and curing Herpes Simplex Virus infections."

Sarma is a three-time Intel International Science and Engineering Fair grand prize winner and has presented research at the London International Science Youth Forum and Portugal Youth Science Forum.

A pianist, she won fourth place at the International Baldwin Piano Competition and was chosen as one of 10 students from Kansas and Missouri to perform at the Truman Memorial Library.

Cousins Sarah Waliany and Shelina Kurwa of Arcadia, Calif., will split a $10,000 scholarship for finishing fifth in the team contest.

Waliany is a junior at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Canada Flintridge, and Kurwa is a senior at the Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena.

The team's bioengineering project could have potential implications for breast cancer research. They were inspired to pursue the research when the mothers of several friends were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The cousins were semifinalists two years ago in the Siemens contest for their project attempting to infuse lettuce with Vitamin C, which has anti-cancer properties.

Waliany, her high school's valedictorian, has participated in numerous science fairs, winning first place in pharmacology at the Los Angeles County Fair. She is the editor of her school newspaper and founder and chief editor of the "Current Sciences Journal."

Kurwa is a MENSA member and, in 2006, after winning a place as guest health editor in a national contest, she was published in "Seventeen" magazine. She has a story idea under consideration for a TV pilot by the BBC.
:by indiawest

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