Texas, N.C. students win $100,000 science contest

Medical research projects by a student from Texas and a team from North Carolina won $100,000 prizes Dec. 8 in a prestigious high school science competition, reports the Associated Press. Prizes of $10,000 to $50,000 were presented to five other high school students and five teams of two at the awards ceremony for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology. Wen Chyan, 17, a senior at Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science in Denton, Texas, won the individual top prize for chemistry research on combating hospital infections. "I developed an anti-microbial coating for medical devices like breathing tubes and catheters," he said. "These infections infect more than 2 million hospital patients and kill more than 100,000, so it’s a very severe problem in our health-care system." Sajith Wickramasekara and Andrew Guo, both 17 and seniors at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, N.C., won the team prize for genetic research aimed at identifying new chemotherapy drugs. "We were looking at developing a model to take existing chemotherapy drugs and improve them, and in the process identify new ones easily," Wickramasekara said. Kushlani Wickramasekara said her son and Guo worked on the project from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily over the summer. "I think they put in altogether about 1,000 hours," she said. James Whaley, president of the Siemens Foundation, which sponsors the competition, said the sophistication of the students’ projects shows that "the United States can and is producing the very best and brightest in the world."

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