The 16-year-old twins, Shweta and Shilpa Iyer, were at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the afternoon, researching the conversion of water into hydrogen, when contest results appeared on the Internet. The teens' father, Srinivasan Iyer, who works at the lab, messaged them the news, but they didn't believe it at first.
Gradually, though, it dawned on the pair that they had each won $1,000, along with a chance to compete for a top team prize of $100,000. The Siemens contest, which is one of the country's two top competitions for high school researchers, announced a nationwide total this year of 93 regional finalists and 322 semifinalists, chosen from 2,255 registered competitors.
"First, we kind of ran out of the building, and we cried a little," recalled Shilpa Iyer, like her sister a senior at Comsewogue High School.
Emotions also ran high at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, where senior Evan Chernack, 17, was named a regional finalist. Chernack teamed up with Aneri Kinariwalla, 16, a junior at Sayville High School and also a regional finalist, for research on stem cells conducted since last summer at Stony Brook University.
South Side also produced three semifinalists this year.
"Right now, I'm speechless," said Herb Weiss, the adult research coordinator at South Side. "I'm amazed at how hard these students work."
New York State had 16 regional finalists, the largest number for any state, followed by California with 12, Texas with 11 and Virginia with nine.
Three regional finalists at George W. Hewlett High School -- Jeremy Appelbaum, William Gil and Allen Shin, all 17 and seniors, worked together on a study of a plant protein linked to cancer in humans.
The Island's other finalist is Ranjeev Chabra, 17, a senior at Syosset High School.
Hewlett High, which serves the Hewlett-Woodmere district, has a biology lab at the school that has the capability of isolating genes from plants.
"One of the attractive things about our high school is we can do the research right there," said Terrence Bissoondial, 39, a science teacher who has overseen the winning project for more than a year.