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Stony Brook University Mentors Four Intel Finalists

Jan 25, 2013 - 8:30:00 AM

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Intel finalist Mayuri Sridhar worked with Dr. Carlos Simmerling, Professor, Department of Chemistry.
STONY BROOK, NY, January 25, 2013 – Stony Brook University  faculty have mentored four of the 40 high school students chosen as finalists in the prestigious 2013 Intel Science Talent Search which accounts for 10 percent of the 40 finalists announced by Intel. All four finalists participated in the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University where they worked in Stony Brook University labs with Stony Brook faculty members and graduate students. Two finalists hail from Long Island, one is from California and another from Oregon.

"Stony Brook University consistently mentors and develops some of the top high school research talent in the nation,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President, Stony Brook University. “I congratulate the four finalists on this great accomplishment; and I tip my hat to the faculty and graduate students that selflessly give of their time to take these young researchers under their wings teaching them how to do research properly. This continued success is a testament to the vast opportunities provided by Stony Brook and the quality of research, education and discovery that happens here every day.”

The four students and their Stony Brook University mentors are:
• Kevin Chen, Mission San Jose HS, Fremont, California, worked with Matthew Dawber in the Department of Physics & Astronomy on the Development of a Low-Cost Analyzer for Ferroelectric Characterization.
• Mayuri Sridhar, Kings Park HS, Kings Park, New York, worked with Carlos Simmerling in the Department of Chemistry on Computational Analysis of the DNA-Binding Mechanism of the p53 Tumor Suppressor and its Inactivation through the R249S Mutation.
• Raghav Tripathi, Westview HS, Portland, Oregon, worked with Iwao Ojima in the Department of Chemistry and Director of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery on Design and Synthesis of Novel Fatty Acid Binding Protein Inhibitors for Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects through
  Increases in Endogenous Anandamide Concentrations
. (Tripathi also placed sixth overall in the 2012 Siemens competition finals.)
• Michael Zhang, Smithtown HS East, St. James, New York, worked with Gregory Zelinsky in the Department of Psychology on Role-Inducted Perspective Visual Behavior during Scene Free-Viewing.

Intel finalist Michael Zhang worked with Dr. Gregory Zelinsky, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology.
“I am especially proud that, year after year, Stony Brook University continues to be an incubator for developing young scientists, especially in the nationally critical STEM disciplines,” said Dennis N. Assanis, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “I would also like to thank the faculty mentors in our Simons Summer Research Program who worked with four out of 40, or 10 percent, of this year’s Intel finalists."

In early January, it was announced that 35 of the 300 Intel semifinalists nationwide (27 of 53 from Long Island) were mentored at Stony Brook University, bringing the total to 393 semifinalists mentored by Stony Brook faculty members since 1997. Additionally, 47 Intel finalists have been mentored at Stony Brook since 1997. 

These four finalists will head to Washington D.C. on March 7 for a week-long event where they will have an opportunity to compete for a share of $630,000 in awards, with the top winner receiving $100,000 from the Intel Foundation. Students will undergo a rigorous judging process and meet with national leaders. Top winners will be announced at a black-tie gala awards ceremony at the National Building Museum on March 12.

Intel finalist Raghav Tripathi (center) is pictured with his mentor SBU Distinguished Professor Iwao Ojima (left), and PhD candidate William Berger, who assisted him with his project.
In the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search, the overall grand prize winner Nithin Tumma, a recipient of a $100,000 scholarship, was mentored at Stony Brook University by Dr. Berhane Ghebrehiwet, a Professor of Medicine and Pathology in the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Stony Brook mentors have had tremendous success in guiding students to successful outcomes in high school science competitions. In addition to mentoring a number of semifinalists and finalists in both the Intel and Siemens competitions, Dr. Iwao Ojima, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry, mentored Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, the grand prize winners (team category) in the 2007 Siemens competition; and Dr. Carlos Simmerling, Department of Chemistry, mentored Ruoyi Jiang, the individual grand prize winner in the 2009 Siemens competition. Additionally, in 2001, Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, mentored Siemens competition grand prize winners (team category) Shira Billet and Dora Sosnowik.


The Media Relations Office spoke with Stony Brook's Intel finalist mentors and asked them to provide their impressions of the Intel finalists and their research. Below are some of the insights that the SBU mentors shared about their students:

Intel finalist Kevin Chen with Dr. Matthew Dawber, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Dr. Matthew Dawber, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy on Kevin Chen:
Kevin Chen joined my lab this summer to work on a component of our NSF funded effort to develop educational kits for the teaching of the physics of functional oxide materials. Kevin's project was to design, build and program a low cost ferroelectric tester based around an Arduino card. This has never been done before and most research labs use sophisticated and costly equipment for measuring ferroelectric materials, putting these experiments well out of the hands of most high school and undergraduate laboratories. With a little help from my graduate student, John Sinsheimer, but acting mostly on his own initiative, Kevin was able to take this project from a mere sketch of an idea to a working apparatus, complete with easy to use software to run the device and analyze the data. I am extremely impressed with what Kevin achieved this summer. With just a little more development we will soon be able to distribute our tester to schools and universities everywhere.

Iwao Ojima
Dr. Iwao Ojima, Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry on Raghav Tripathi:
“Raghav shows great initiative. His thirst for knowledge seems insatiable, and he masters every challenge with exceptional speed. In addition, he is extremely creative, focused, determined and persevering. In spite of the highly complex nature of the research, including computational biology, chemical synthesis, and biochemical analysis, Raghav’s performance exceeded my expectations. In fact, for more than 20 years, I have been mentoring high school students for summer research with great success, among them many Intel, Westinghouse, and Siemens competition semi-finalists and finalists and several top winners, including two Siemens Grand Prize Winners. I can honestly state that Raghav is equal to the best of them."

Carlos Simmerling
Dr. Carlos Simmerling, Professor, Department of Chemistry, on Mayuri Sridhar:
“Mayuri joined my lab about a year ago, after having applied the previous year but having to wait until space was available. After working with her, it was our loss that we didn’t get her started earlier. She promptly learned how to do complex biophysics simulations using use one of the fastest supercomputers in the world; then she designed an independent project on an important biomedical problem that was right at the edge of feasibility. Mayuri is extremely intelligent. She’s also very easy going, except when it came to the challenges that always come up when trying to solve hard problems – then she was relentless. Students like Mayuri are a pleasure to have on our team.”

Dr. Gregory Zelinsky, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology on Michael Zhang:
Gregory Zelinsky
“Michael has all the makings of a fine scientist – intelligence, carefulness, and refreshing creativity. The fact that Michael came up with the idea for his project largely on his own is evidence for all of these qualities. The premise is that people of different "perspectives" may literally look at the world in qualitatively different ways – the way a security guard looks at the world might be different than the way a tourist would look at the world. Volunteers first read a story designed to have them adopt a particular perspective; then their “looking behavior” to a series of scenes was recorded using a device called an eye tracking. These patterns of eye fixations were then analyzed using techniques from computer vision to discover what perspective was assigned to that person – essentially reading their mind (their perspective) by analyzing their looking behavior. Conducting this project required a substantial amount of work: designing and programming the experiment, learning the equipment, collecting and analyzing the eye movement data from volunteers, and coordinating with computer science colleagues responsible for decoding the fixation patterns. Accomplishing all of these tasks, and doing so in such a short period of time, would have been impressive for a PhD student, let alone someone who is still in high school. Michael has a very bright future ahead of him.


© Stony Brook University 2013

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