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Eleven LI students are Siemens Competition regional finalists

From left, Jillian Parker, 16, a junior at

From left, Jillian Parker, 16, a junior at Half Hollow Hills High School West, and teammates Jiachen Lee, 16, and Arooba Ahmed, 15, both juniors at Half Hollow Hills High School East, are among 11 Long Island regional finalists in the 2017 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. They are shown at Half Hollow Hills East in Dix Hills on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Splitting cells. Developing low-cost dental implants. Shrinking tumors. A new type of radiation detector, with implications for national security.

Those complex endeavors are among the research performed by 11 students from Long Island high schools who were named regional finalists Wednesday in the 2017 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

Nationwide, there were 101 such honorees who will go on to compete in the next round of the prestigious contest. The regional finalists were among 56 Siemens semifinalists on Long Island named Tuesday, out of a total of 491 across the country.

Arooba Ahmed, 15, and a junior at Half Hollow Hills East, said she and her teammates were “really ecstatic” to learn of their advancement in the competition. The trio of young women determined that the protein CCDC11 is crucial to the process of cell division and said their research has implications for combating neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.

“It’s extremely exciting for this to happen for us,” she said. “Our work really paid off and it’s really amazing that this happened.”

The Island’s regional finalists include one student in the individual category and 10 who are members of two- or three-person teams, some of whom are in schools elsewhere.

Rahul Parthasarathy, 17 and a senior at Syosset High School, was the sole student from Long Island to advance in the individual category. His research found improved ways to characterize CZT crystals in the hope of using such technology in radiation detectors. The current method for semiconductor radiation detectors in widespread use is costly and cumbersome, he said, relying on heavy liquid nitrogren tanks to cool the devices. The CZT detectors can be used at room temperature.

“It would make radiation detectors much more accessible,” Parthasarathy said, adding that could open up a wider range of applications for first responders, who could use the portable detectors to assess the danger of radiation, and in the field of nuclear medicine, to monitor a patient’s exposure during treatment.

Wednesday’s news also started the scramble to prepare for the next round.

The Island’s regional finalists will present their projects virtually to judges on Nov. 17-18 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh — one of six Siemens-designated universities across the country where experts will assess students’ research.

Making the cut to the next level was Jericho High School senior Jang Hun Choi, 17, who said he expanded his project from last year and, as a result, made more discoveries for practical uses.

Choi studied graph theory, discovering graphs that resemble the mapping of railway transit and aviation pathways. His work, he said, could help researchers and policymakers “resolve complex transportation conflicts in developing countries by applying these ‘maps’ I have constructed to connect various cities.”

“To have a project that I genuinely enjoyed studying this whole summer, to have somebody else as a judge read that paper and say this is a project that has meaning, that has applications later — that’s gratifying,” Choi said.

“I still haven’t internalized it,” Alan Jian, 17, a senior at Garden City High School, said of his team’s advancement. They developed chemotherapeutic substances that had a powerful effect on tumors.

All the regional finalists are awarded a $1,000 prize.

Winners at the next level of the competition will go to the national finals in Washington, D.C., to be held at The George Washington University on Dec. 4-5.

Ultimately, the contest awards two $100,000 grand prizes — one to an individual and one to a team, which usually is composed of two or three students. Two second prizes of $50,000 are given to an individual and a team, and other national finalists receive $25,000 each.

LI’s Siemens regional finalists

Eleven Long Island students were named regional finalists Wednesday in the 2017 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. One of the finalists is competing in the individual category, and the others are on teams.

  • Rahul Parthasarathy, a Syosset High School senior, is competing in the individual category.
  • Jillian Parker, a junior at Half Hollow Hills High School West, is on a team with Half Hollow Hills East juniors Arooba Ahmed and Jiachen Lee.
  • Sahith Vadada and Rushikesh Patel, juniors at Herricks High School, are on a team with Vedant Singh, a junior at The Wheatley School in the East Williston school district.
  • Alan Jian, a senior at Garden City High School, is on a team with Austin Lee, a senior at Roslyn High School, and Caitlyn Chen, a senior at The Spence School in Manhattan.
  • Jang Hun Choi, a Jericho High School senior, is on a team with Chris Lee, a sophomore at the Seoul International School in Seongnam, South Korea, and Soohyun Ahn, a junior at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts.
  • Baokun Gu, a junior at Manhasset High School, is on a team with Stanley Wong, a senior from Hunter College High School in Manhattan.

— Scott Eidler

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