Indian American girl tops science competition

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : An Indian American girl, Isha Himani Jain, has been declared national champion in one of the most coveted student science competitions in the US.

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The 16-year-old student of Freedom High School in Behtlehem, Pennsylvania, Monday won in the individual category of the Siemens Competition in Mathematics, Science and Technology.

She has been awarded a $100,000 scholarship for her college education for having identified a cellular mechanism underlying bone growth spurts in zebra fish, similar to the way children’s bones grow.

Isha, whose work has been published in the journal Developmental Dynamics, said she chose to study zebra fish because the species is a good animal model.

She said her research should lead to understanding bone growth in other vertebrates along with bone disorders in humans.

Talking about her plans, she told IANS she is applying to Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Yale.

“I want to specialise in genetics, and want to eventually have my own lab,” she said.

Isha says her father Himanshu Jain, a chair professor at department of materials science and engineering at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, and her mother Sweety Jain, who practises family medicine, encouraged her.

Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, students at a school in Long Island, New York, were declared winners in the competition’s team category for creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria. They shared a $100,000 scholarship.

One of the more popular projects at the competition was by three home-schooled girls from Pennsylvania and New Jersey who have designed a system to determine whether E. coli bacteria in hamburgers have been safely eliminated by measuring the shrinkage of each patty when fully cooked.

Girls sweeping the competition made the US media call it the breaking of another glass ceiling and showing up the misperception that women can’t do science.

The entries were judged by a panel of scientists led by Joseph Taylor, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics and a professor emeritus at Princeton University.