Two Indian Americans who competed in the National Finals of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, the nation's premier research competition for high school students, Dec. 4 won individual scholarships of $30,000 and $10,000, respectively.
Six individuals and six teams competed at the National Finals after winning one of six regional competitions in November. They presented their research to a panel of judges comprised of nationally renowned scientists and mathematicians.
Saumil Bandyopadhyay, of Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies in Richmond, Virginia, won a $30,000 scholarship in the field of electrical engineering.
Raghav Tripathi, of Westview High School in Portland, Oregon, won a $10,000 scholarship for biochemistry.
In addition, the team of Rohil Prasad and Jonathan Tidor, of Lexington High School in Lexington, Mass., won a $20,000 scholarship for mathematics.
Bandyopadhyay’s research on an infrared photodetector with potential applications in car collision avoidance and mine detection won him an invitation to present his work at the National Finals, according to the Walker Governor’s School’s Web site.
In his project, Bandyopadhyay developed a novel universal light and beta-radiation detector that has the capability to perceive infrared light at room temperature, a problem with these detectors, with a rate at least 10 times higher than other common detectors.
"We were very impressed by his understanding of quantum physics and engineering," said competition judge Alenka Zajic, Assistant Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Tech. "His research has potential applications in collision avoidance systems, buried mine detection and monitoring global warming, among others."
Bandyopadhyay has applied for a U.S. patent for his project. He has had two papers published in peer-reviewed physics journals with a few more under submission.
Bandyopadhyay has mentored students in the laboratory through the Richmond Area Program for Minorities in Engineering. In his free time he enjoys playing the violin.
Tripathi, a high school senior, won his spot at the nationals by investigating a compound called anandamide, which is naturally released in the body to slow pain. By increasing anandamide levels in the body, he says he may be able reduce the dangers of addictive pain killers, according to ABC News.
“The end product will hopefully be some sort of pill, vaccine, maybe a spray or something that can be used by people who are suffering from pain,” Tripathi told ABC’s Portland affiliate, KATU.
Tripathi said he was inspired to find a better painkiller after his mother broke her leg in a skiing accident and refused to take medication during her recovery for fear she might become dependent.
Jeniffer Harper Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation, said his accomplishments already put him on par with Ph.D.-level scientists.
“Think about a high school student doing research at that level, it’s just amazing,” she said.
The Siemens Competition is a signature program of the Siemens Foundation, a leading supporter of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the United States. The competition is administered by the College Board. The 14th annual awards were presented at The George Washington University, host of the 2012 Siemens Competition National Finals.