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Dix Hills senior heads to national Siemens competition

Senior Alice Wu, shown at Half Hollow Hills

Senior Alice Wu, shown at Half Hollow Hills West High School on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, was part of a team that won the regional Siemens Competition for developing a technique to grow stem cells within the soft living tissue of teeth. The process could potentially aid bone and tooth regeneration. Credit: David L. Pokress

A student at Half Hollow Hills High School West was named a national finalist Monday in the annual Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

Alice Wu, 17, a senior at the Dix Hills school, was on a three-person team selected for their research that aims to regenerate teeth through the use of stem cells.

The other two members of her team were Katherine Cao of Mequon, Wisconsin, and William Hu of Saratoga, California. They will share a $6,000 scholarship.

The top individual honor, and a $3,000 scholarship, went to Pranav Sivakumar of Tower Lakes, Illinois, for his study of Almost Dark Galaxies, dark matter too far away for direct observation.

Wu said Monday that her work dealt with growing stem cells taken from the soft living tissue of teeth and growing them into bone.

“We plated the [stem] cells into different surfaces ... We found the best surface was one characterized by holes,” she said. “Porous substances produce the best [results.]”

“We can make a difference, in that we will be able to regenerate teeth in the future as we continue this line of research,” she said.

The competition administrators said in a statement announcing the results that the research “could have important implications for bone and dental regeneration in patients with severe tooth decay.”

The competitors made their presentations online over the weekend. The four students, as well as finalists from other regional competitions later this month, advance to the finals Dec. 5 and 6 in Washington, D.C.

A half-million dollars in scholarships will be awarded at the national event, including two top prizes of $100,000.

Wu said she is on the school’s cross-country track team and the badminton team and has been taking photography classes for four years.

She is a peer adviser with GirlsFLI, short for Girls Fund of Long Island, which promotes feminism and fosters leadership among young women.

She has applied for admission to Yale University and plans to enter the fields of computer science or biomedical engineering.

She was among 96 students who took part in regional Siemens competitions across the country out of a pool of more than 1,600 projects submittedor the competition this year, organizers said.

With Gary Dymski


An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology finals next month in Washington, D.C.


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