6 Gatton Students Semifinalists in 2014 Siemens Competition
- Derick Strode
- Friday, October 17th, 2014
Six students at The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky have been recognized by the Siemens Foundation as national semifinalists in the 2014 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
Students may enter the competition in the Individual or Team Category. Andrew Brown, a Gatton Academy senior from Muhlenberg County; Ben Guthrie, a Gatton Academy senior from Warren County; Dimitri Leggas, a Gatton Academy senior from Fayette County; andVir Patel, a Gatton Academy senior from Christian County, were recognized in the Individual Category. Julia Gensheimer, a Gatton Academy senior from Warren County, and Whitney Heard, a Gatton Academy junior from Warren County, were honored in the Team Category.
The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology is known as the nation’s premier research program for high school students. This year the competition received a record 1,780 projects for consideration. Approximately 400 were named semifinalists. All semifinalists advance for consideration to be Regional Finalists.
“Our remarkable students have extraordinary opportunities to pursue research at WKU and beyond. The hard work of the students and their passions for learning combine for powerful results when paired with a faculty mentor,” said Dr. Lynette Breedlove, director of The Gatton Academy.
Derick Strode, the Gatton Academy’s assistant director of academic services, commented on the rigor of the process.
“No one hits the ‘Submit’ button on a Siemens Competition application without an incredible amount of work,” Strode said. “Students reported spending between 300 and 650 hours on their projects. We are delighted that six of our students were recognized.”
Brown spent his summer working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico on a nuclear fusion energy project. His summer mentor, Dr. Xianzhu Tang, said Brown carried out a graduate-level research project that “sheds light on a potentially practical solution to a major challenge in making controlled fusion energy work.”
In addition to his summer research, Brown is continuing research with Dr. Keith Andrew, department head of WKU Physics and Astronomy, which started when Brown arrived at The Gatton Academy.
Guthrie’s project was conducted at the WKU Applied Physics Institute with Physics and Astronomy professor Dr. Phillip Womble. The project’s aim was to further work on the development of a betavoltaic battery AA-sized or smaller that can last for 20 years or longer.
“Ben essentially completed interdisciplinary research at the Master’s level in four months,” Womble said. “To perform his research he had to learn aspects of computer programming, computer graphics, computer modeling and simulation techniques, relativistic quantum mechanics, solid state physics and nuclear physics.”
Guthrie is continuing his research project with Womble at the Applied Physics Institute. Previously, Guthrie was involved in research with Dr. Keith Andrew, department head of WKU Physics and Astronomy.
Leggas’s research was conducted over the past year at the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy with Dr. Oleg Tsodikov. Leggas’s work developed a novel mathematical method for determining crystal structures from X-ray diffraction data.
“Dimitri is already a co-author on a publication from the Tsodikov group in a flagship peer-reviewed journal,” Tsodikov said. Another publication may soon be on the way. Tsodikov said Dimitri is first author on a manuscript that will be submitted this month.
In addition to his research at the University of Kentucky, Leggas has conducted research with Dr. Jeremy Maddox, an assistant professor in the WKU Department of Chemistry, since starting as a Gatton Academy student. Additionally, he is involved in a project with Dr. Claus Ernst, University Distinguished Professor in the WKU Department of Mathematics.
Patel’s project took place as a summer internship at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine with Dr. John Capra. Patel’s bioinformatics study examined micro ribonucleic acids (miRNAs) and has potential disease applications.
“I am extremely proud of Vir for his excellent work this summer. In only eight weeks he was able to make a new observation about the relationship of miRNA evolution and disease,” Capra said. “We hope to adapt and extend his research report for publication.”
Before his summer research at Vanderbilt University, Patel was a student researcher in the WKU Department of Biology’s yearlong Genome Discovery and Exploration Program. He is conducting bioinformatics research with WKU Biology professor Dr. Claire Rinehart.
Julia Gensheimer and Whitney Heard
Gensheimer and Heard developed a team project through WKU’s Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology under the direction of Dr. Yan Cao, director of ICSET and professor of chemistry. The team’s project looked at three methods of synthesizing graphene, a material that is thin, lightweight and 300 times stronger than steel.
“Julia and Whitney ran the team in a professional way and collaborated closely. Julia led the team in the perspective view and Whitney paid attention to the details. Both of them are self-motivated and persistent, willing to take challenges,” Cao said.
Gensheimer is the only Gatton Academy student to be named as a Siemens Competition semifinalist two years consecutively. In addition to two summers of research at ICSET, she is also a student researcher with Dr. Kevin Williams, professor in the WKU Department of Chemistry.
Heard is the only Gatton Academy junior recognized in this year’s competition. She is a researcher in the WKU Department of Biology’s yearlong Genome Discovery and Exploration Program.
Brown, Guthrie, Leggas and Patel all had summer research supported by the Gatton Research Internship Grant. Both Gensheimer and Heard were supported over summer through the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED Program.
About The Gatton Academy: Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential high school for gifted and talented junior and seniors. Gatton Academy students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematical careers. The Gatton Academy has been named the number one public high school in the United States by The Daily Beast for three consecutive years – 2012, 2013 and 2014. For information about The Gatton Academy, visit www.wku.edu/academy or call (270) 745-6565.
About the Siemens Foundation: The Siemens Foundation provides more than $7 million annually in support of educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Its signature programs include the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology; Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement; and The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, which encourages K-12 students to develop innovative green solutions for environmental issues. By supporting outstanding students today, and recognizing the teachers and schools that inspire their excellence, the Foundation helps nurture tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. The Foundation’s mission is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens’ U.S. companies and its parent company, Siemens AG.