Two local students selected as finalists in national Intel Science Talent Search

Courtesy of Harker School
Local Harker School seniors Steven Wang, left, and Rohith Kuditipudi earned finalist honors in the Intel Science Talent Search. The pair will join 40 other finalists in Washington, D.C., next month to compete for more than $1 million in prizes.

Two Harker School seniors, Rohith Kuditipudi of Los Altos and Steven Wang of Los Altos Hills, last month reached the finalist stage of the 2015 Intel Science Talent Search.

Kuditipudi and Wang join 40 other high school students from across the United States who will gather in Washington, D.C., in March for the final phase of the competition, with more than $1 million in cash prizes at stake.

While in D.C., the finalists will demonstrate their research before national leaders and key figures in the scientific community. Winners will be announced at an invitation-only gala at the National Building Museum March 10.

Winning research

Kuditipudi and Wang worked with mentors in the science field on their research, outside their regular school curriculum. Talent Search officials honored Kuditipudi for his work on “Network Based Integration of High-Throughput Gene Expression and Methylation Data Reveals New Insights into NAFLD Progression” and Wang for research on “Computer-Aided Genomic Characterization of Colorectal Cancer Driver Alterations for Oncogenic Transformation of Primary Colon Organoids."

“Put simply, I looked at a network of dots and lines, where the dots represent genes and the lines represent relationships between genes,” Kuditipudi wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “Under different conditions, the lines reorganize somewhat. By examining how relationships between genes change from one disease stage to the next stage of progression, I gained insight into mechanisms and ‘markers’ of disease progression.”

Kuditipudi said he was originally drawn to the field of bioinformatics/systems biology because he thought it was an area where he “could have a real impact on the world.” For his ongoing project, he works with professionals at UC San Diego and from home when possible.

“My favorite part of the process has been the opportunity to work with such extraordinary people at UC San Diego,” Kuditipudi said. “I had the opportunity to speak with people whose research is changing the world.”

Wang’s research centered on the computational analysis of large public databases, such as The Cancer Genome Project and the Gene Expression Omnibus, to discover alterations that may drive the progression of colorectal cancer.

“Through a multidimensional analysis of multiple data types over around 600 cancer samples, I discovered new driver genes that could contribute to the initiation of colorectal tumors,” Wang wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “I then tested two of these alterations in an innovative ‘mini-organ’ system called the ‘organoid’ model to test their cancer proliferation potential.”

Wang collaborated with mentors at Stanford University, working full time on weekends and when not in school.

“My favorite part of the process was visualizing the organoids under the microscope,” he said. “To directly examine miniature parts of the human body under the microscope never ceases to amaze me. I am continuously in awe at the intricate workings of life and feel empowered to unravel this complexity through technological innovation.”

The Intel Science Talent Search, a program of the Society for Science & the Public, is among the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competitions. Alumni have made important contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world’s most-coveted science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science.

Three hundred students reach the semifinalist stage each year. In addition to Kuditipudi and Wang, Los Altos students Kailas Vodrahalli and Pranav Reddy were among the 15 semifinalists from The Harker School.

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