2009 Magnet Research Convention

by Susan Ragan

On April 16, 2009, the Blair Magnet held its 17th Annual Magnet Research Convention, showcasing student research projects that were completed by the Class of 2009.

Guest Speaker

The keynote speaker at the Research Convention was Dr. Hormuzd Katki, a 1992 graduate of the Blair Magnet and a tenure-track cancer researcher and biostatistician at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Katki spoke about the formative role that his teachers at the Takoma Park and Blair Magnets played in his development as a researcher. In particular, he honored Ms. Darlene Counihan, his math teacher and math team coach at the Takoma Park Magnet, for challenging him to explain and prove every concept and answer he obtained in mathematics. This habit of critical thinking and analysis led to his success as he progressed from a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Chicago to an M.S. in Statistics from Carnegie-Mellon University to a Ph.D. in Biostatistics from The Johns Hopkins University. At the NCI, his research has involved the construction of statistical models to predict an individual’s risk of cancer, thereby enabling improved clinical management of patients and more effective prevention programs. In particular, his models deal with the risk of breast cancer due to genetic variants and the risk of cervical cancer. In his talk, he demonstrated the application of statistical models to risk management in the housing market as well as in cancer research.

Vaccaro Award

Dr. Michael Vaccaro, a dear friend of the Blair Magnet Program, helped build links with the scientific community in the early years of the program allowing students to have research internships off campus at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Maryland, and others. Each year, students who have embodied the research spirit are recognized in his honor.

Curry Chern and Sean McCanty were recognized for their team work on the project “Determining the health of streams in the Clarksburg region of Montgomery County, Maryland using fish and benthic macroinvertebrate indicators”. Their work was done under the guidance of Jennifer St. John at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. It can be challenging to forge a collaboration in which the partners share the workload, but Curry and Sean worked seamlessly together collecting their data, analyzing it, and writing up their results.

Will Shepherdson was recognized for his research project, “Quench system development for thermomechanical simulation of friction stir welding” conducted at the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center under the guidance of Jennifer Wolk. Will received outstanding reviews from his mentor and has served the Magnet community in many ways. He has distinguished himself for his sense of responsibility, his integrity, and his thoroughness in his research.

Elizabeth So was recognized for her work on “Determining the effects of the overexpression of K212Q, a mutant form of human Endonuclease III, on the mutation frequency in HEK293 cells”. Her research was conducted at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center under the guidance of Dr. Rabindra Roy. Elizabeth lived through the real world frustration of experiments going awry in spite of her efforts to be as prepared as she possibly could be. She was one of the first students to find a mentor, she was a step ahead of many in doing her background reading, and she never shirked from her work nor blamed others for problems. Elizabeth was recognized for her positive attitude and dedicated work habits and for overcoming the challenges she faced.

Washington Academy of Sciences Awards

The Washington Academy of Sciences has a long history of recognizing outstanding scientific research conducted by high school students in the Washington DC metropolitan region. This year, 20 scientists volunteered their time to attend the Magnet Research Convention to interview the students about their projects. Dr. Paul Hazan spent an extraordinary amount of time coordinating the review of the senior research projects, and announced the following winners.

Honorable Mention: Ethan Wang, Emily Hsiao, Mandeep Bedi, Naina Soni, Rutvij Pandya, Benjamin Shih, Colin Schmidt, David Edelstein, Julie Ufford, Akimitsu Hogge, Edward Gan, Adith Ramamurti

Galileo Award for Excellence: Sahar Shahamatdar, Alisa Lu, Henry Zhang, Monica Ashok, Sean Howard, Mihai Sirbu, Anton Frolenkov, Victor Wang, Corvina Leipe, Lukas Kagan

Isaac Newton Award for Outstanding Projects: Xin Shan, Debattama Sen, Kevin Meng, Qiyu Wang, Bryan Huang, Kevin Rawlings, Tai Zheng, Sean McCanty, Curry Chern, Srinivas Vasudevan

Other Awards

The following students were selected as Intel Science Talent Search semi-finalists this year: Eric An, Chris Bodine, Jean Fan, Anton Frolenkov, Edward Gan, Akimitsu Hogge, Ansh Johri, Sneha Kannan, Debattama Sen, Benjamin Shih, Sang Tian and Srinivas Vasudevan

These students were selected as semi-finalists in the Siemens Competition for Math, Science and Technology – Jean Fan, Sneha Kannan, Alisa Lu, Xin Shan, Srinivas Vasudevan, Ethan Wang, Richard Zhao, and Tai Zheng as our regional finalist.

Elizabeth Fang and Sneha Kannan represented us as the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at Georgetown University. Sneha won first place and the right to compete at the national level.

Sneha Kannan also came in first place in Biochemistry at the Montgomery County Science Fair, earning the right to compete at the national level.

Bryan Huang was a semi-finalist in the MIT THINK competition.