The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has announced the 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winners, with 18-year-old Indian American Varun Kumar of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., among the grand prize winners.

Kumar won a $50,000 scholarship for his project, “Dihydrotanshinone: A Pan-Therapeutic Treatment for Chemoresistance in Cancer.”

He is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner, Davidson Institute said.

“I am honored to be named a Davidson Fellow, as it validates my research efforts on drug resistance in aggressive cancers and motivates me to continue pursuing my goals,” said Kumar in a statement. “I look forward to meeting like-minded peers and learning as much from them as I have from my project.”

Kumar developed a combination therapy that may help reverse resistance to a drug commonly used (Temozolomide) to treat glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive type of brain tumor in adults, the release said.

His research offers a way to enhance the efficacy of current chemotherapies, improving outcomes for patients with aggressive cancers, and may represent a promising therapeutic option for highly aggressive cancers with a way to amplify existing chemotherapies, it said.

Kumar’s model could serve as a cost effective and accessible way for other researchers to confirm that a drug has potential to reach the brain, improving the efficiency of the brain disease drug pipeline, the institute added.

For his project, Kumar has been recognized as a Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalist, ISEF Third Grand Award winner, JSHS Finalist, AAN Neuroscience Research Prize Finalist, and AACR Annual Meeting poster presenter.

He is a Simons Fellow and participated in the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University. Kumar also has two first-author publications in the journals Anticancer Research and Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, according to his bio.

Another four Indian Americans – Aayush Karan of Wisconsin; Neeyanth Kopparapu of Virginia; Siona Prasad of Virginia; and Isha Puri of New York – were honored as $25,000 scholarship recipients.

Karan won a $25,000 scholarship for his project, “Generating Set for Nonzero Determinant Links Under Skein Relation.”

“I feel incredibly honored to be named a Davidson Fellow and be part of a community of such brilliant and passionate peers,” said Karan. “I am even more inspired to think deeply about the inexhaustible beautiful ideas that exist throughout academia.”

Knot theory studies the behavior of intertwined tangled loops known as links. One of the driving objectives behind knot theory is determining when two such link structures are actually equivalent.

By utilizing a method combining topology, algebra, and combinatorics, the final theorems created by Karan immensely simplify the calculations necessary to completely resolve a 30 -year-old open question in the field of knot theory.

Knot theory is used throughout scientific research where Karan’s contribution could aid in future medical and medicinal improvements based on improved understanding of DNA.

Kopparapu’s project, “MRI Image Synthesis for the Diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease using Deep Learning,” presents the first automatic diagnosis system for early-stage Parkinson's disease from an MRI scan with a 96.6 percent accuracy. Kopparapu was driven to tackle this problem after his grandfather was given a late diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease and is now unable to use common medication to treat the disease.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Davidson Institute for this recognition of my work in artificial intelligence,” said Kopparapu, a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. “I am looking forward to meeting other Fellows and becoming part of the Davidson Fellows Scholarship community.”

Prasad’s project, “Characterizing Uncertainty in Urban Inversions of Carbon Sources/Sinks using Low Cost Sensor Measurements,” creates a comprehensive system to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions.

Using carbon dioxide sensor technology, drone platforms and inversion modeling, Prasad successfully predicted an emission inventory for Washington, D.C.

Her methodology takes a crucial first step towards enforcing mitigation strategies and government-set limits and, ultimately, combating climate change.

“I am deeply honored to be named a 2019 Davidson Fellow,” said Prasad, who will be attending Harvard University in the fall. “I am excited to join this incredible and inspiring group of peers and hope to continue my research pursuits in the future.”

Puri’s project, “A Scalable and Freely Accessible Machine Learning Based Application for the Early Detection of Dyslexia,” developed a novel combination of different machine learning algorithms to produce a highly accurate eye tracking method.

Using a computer’s standard webcam, Puri’s application can predict if a child has a higher risk of dyslexia with a 90.18 percent accuracy.

Dyslexia is the world’s most common neurological learning disability, affecting one in every 10 people worldwide, so an early diagnosis can significantly reduce learning difficulties later in life.

“I am extremely honored to be a Davidson Fellow,” said Puri, who will be attending Harvard University in the fall. “I am grateful for the opportunity to join such a dynamic community of change makers and creators, as well as for the support of the Davidson Institute for my education and future endeavors.”

Also earning scholarships – that of the $10,000 amount – were Aryia Dattamajumdar of Sunnyvale, California, and Vishnu Akash Polkampally of Ossining, New York. Only 20 students across the country are recognized as scholarship winners each year.

The 2019 Davidson Fellows will be honored at a reception in Washington, D.C., Sept. 27.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship program offers $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 college scholarships to students 18 or younger, who have completed significant projects that have the potential to benefit society in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature and music.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship has provided more than $7.5 million in scholarship funds to more than 300 students since its inception in 2001, and has been named one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships by U.S. News & World Report.

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