One Ward Melville student is a Siemens regional winner and three more are regional finalists after this past weekend's science competition at Carnegie Mellon University.
Senior Nevin Daniel took top individual honors – along with a $3,000 scholarship – for engineering a new delivery system for anti-cancer drugs which can reduce the painful side effects of chemotherapy. He will compete at the Siemens Finals the first weekend in December in Washington, D.C., where the top prize is a $100,000 scholarship.
Senior Kevin Chen was named a regional individual finalist for his study of how fruit fly genetic systems communicate, and senior Emmanuel Kim and junior Anna Sato were named regional team finalists for their work on a new type of water filtration method. They each took home a $1,000 scholarship for their efforts.
The three seniors have also submitted their work to the Intel Science Talent Search, for which semifinalists and finalists will be announced in January.
"All these students are highly motivated young scientists. ... I expect we will hear much more from them in several years as their research careers unfold," said Dr. George Baldo, who runs the at .
Sato said she enjoyed the competition, meeting new friends and gaining exposure to different ideas.
"Every group was different, but they were all well-prepared," she said. "Posters and slides were very elaborate, and presentations were all well-prepared."
Daniel's project, entitled "Novel Asymmetrical Bow-Tie PAMAM Dendrimer Conjugates as Model Systems for Anticancer Taxoid Drug Delivery," was the culmination of months of work alongside his mentor, Dr. Iwao Ojima, and graduate student William Berger. Ojima, who is a distinguished professor of chemistry and the director of the Institute of Chemical Biology & Drug Discovery at Stony Brook University, accepted Daniel into his lab program in February and began working with him in June. Daniel would often spend more than 50 hours a week in the lab.
Ojima, whose research lab has been working on anti-cancer drug technology for years, discussed several possible ideas with Daniel before they settled on this one – something that hadn't been tried before. They worked with several types of cancer cells, including pancreatic cancer, gastrointestinal cancer and colon cancer. Whereas chemotherapeutic agents often destroy more than just the cancerous cells, the end result of the project was a drug delivery system that could distinguish between the normal cells and the cancerous ones.
"If we want to eliminate those undesirable side effects and improve the quality of life for patients, we have to develop more specific cancer drugs," Ojima said. "Our approach is to use those drugs but combine with a delivery system that is very specific to the tumor ... and very effectively attacks those tumors."
Daniel has his sights set on an Ivy League college next year and plans to major in chemistry or biomedical engineering. He hopes his project will become the groundwork for something marketable in the public domain.
"The project is very interdisciplinary," he said. "I really hope that it might be pursued by scientists as a new direction for delivering potent cancer drugs more specifically with less side effects."
Daniel, who resides in Port Jefferson Station, developed an interest in science early on. His parents are both engineers, and he used to study his father's chemistry textbooks as a child. This past summer, he was named by Popular Science magazine as one of the nation's top teen inventors for his development of a device that could turn algae into hydrogen fuel. He is also a co-editor of the Ward Melville school newspaper, active on the Math Team and Science Olympiad, and plays viola in the school's chamber orchestra.
"Quite honestly, I am not surprised Nevin won the Siemens Regional Finals," Baldo said. "I have no doubt Nevin will rock the world of science at some point! I do worry about him getting enough sleep at times."