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11/15/2010 08:00:00

Young Scientists Face Off at Siemens Competition

This past weekend, 13 budding scientists squared off at Caltech for science scholarships worth $9,000—and the chance to win up to $100,000—at the Region One Finals of the 2010–11 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, the nation's premier science research competition for high school students. The high school juniors, including four from Southern California, explained their research projects—on topics ranging from nanoparticles and precancerous cells to bioinformatics, microfluidics, and atmospheric chemistry—to a panel of 10 judges from Caltech.

Andrew Liu, a senior at Henry M. Gunn Senior High School in Palo Alto, California, won the individual category and a $3,000 college scholarship for developing a promising new technique for extracting meaning from genomic data and applying it to the problem of organ rejection. The winners of the team category and a $6,000 scholarship were Akash Krishnan and Matthew Fernandez, juniors at Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, Oregon. Inspired by the movie I, Robot, in which a robot can sense when its user is under stress, Krishnan and Fernandez developed a computer technique to identify—with 60 percent accuracy—emotions in the human voice. Emotion recognition has applications in security, lie detection and autism research.

Liu, Krishnan, and Fernandez now move on to the National Finals, which will be held in Washington, D.C., December 2–6.

Written by Kathy Svitil