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2 Gatton students semifinalists in 2015 Siemens Competition

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Gatton Academy students Harsh Moolani (left) and Alexandra Wright were recognized as national semifinalists in the 2015 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology.

Two Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky students have been recognized as national semifinalists in the 2015 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology.

Harsh Moolani, a second-year student from Owensboro, and Alexandra Wright, a second-year student from Union, were both honored by the competition.

The Siemens Competition, the nation’s premiere science research competition for high school students, reports receiving more than 1,700 student submissions this year.

“Simply doing the research on which a Siemens entry is based is hard work and demonstrates a high level of academic ability and commitment,” said Dr. Lynette Breedlove, The Gatton Academy Director. “Completing the submission process requires a great deal of effort and expertise, especially when students are also taking a full load of college courses. Reaching the level of semi-finalist is an incredible honor and recognition of the dedication Harsh and Alexandra have demonstrated in pursuing their research interests. I applaud all the Gatton Academy students who were working toward this goal.”

“Harsh and Alexandra prepared for the competition all summer,” said Derick Strode, Assistant Director, Academic Services at The Gatton Academy.

“Both spent full-summer internships conducting their research studies, and both have worked tirelessly through the September deadline to refine their written applications. It truly takes a labor of love for students to enter the Siemens Competition,” Strode said.

Harsh Moolani

Moolani’s project began over one year ago in Dr. Rajalingam Dakshinamurthy’s laboratory at the WKU Department of Chemistry. Moolani has engaged in research above-and-beyond his course schedule each semester while being at WKU. During the summer, he was awarded a Gatton Research Internship Grant to continue his study full-time through an intensive internship.

Moolani’s project used a self-patented, bio-friendly and single-step process to encapsulate an antibiotic around gold nanoparticles for optimal drug delivery.

“Harsh has impressed our entire research group with his maturity and charisma,” Dakshinamurthy said. “He displays a remarkable intelligence, and he has a tireless work ethic. It is my sincere belief that Harsh has the potential to become a fantastic researcher, and will most assuredly achieve great things wherever his passion and curiosity take him.”

Alexandra Wright

Wright’s project was performed over the summer at the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory in Newport. She was awarded a Gatton Research Internship Grant to carry out her project.

Wright’s study evaluated two key regulators’ role on breast cancer cells’ survival, growth, motility, and oncogenic signaling. She was mentored by Dr. Alexandra Fajardo.

Dr. Julia H. Carter, President of Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory, said: “Alexandra worked diligently in our lab alongside our scientists doing hands-on research on breast cancer. She did an excellent job in the lab, and also in preparing seminars on published research papers, as well as preparing oral and written reports based on her research.”

Wright is also involved with research at WKU under the mentorship of Dr. Kevin Williams in the WKU Department of Chemistry.

Other Gatton Academy students who entered the Siemens Competition include Hayden Brooks of Sturgis, who completed mathematics research with Dr. Claus Ernst at WKU; Nolan Calhoun of Corinth, who completed research at the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory with Dr. Julia Carter; Rohan Deshpande of LaGrange, who completed mathematics research with Dr. Richard Schugart at WKU; Jenna Ellis of Sparta, who completed computer science research with Dr. Uta Ziegler at WKU; Seth Marksberry of Owensboro, who completed biology research with Dr. Chandrakanth Emani at WKU; Kristen Pedersen of Barbourville, who completed biology research with Dr. Steve Huskey at WKU; DJ Price of Perryville, who completed mathematics research with Dr. Claus Ernst at WKU; Eura Shin of Morehead, who completed computer science research with Dr. Uta Ziegler at WKU; Jeremiah Wayne of Henderson, who completed research at the Owensboro Cancer Research Program with Dr. Nobuyuki Matoba; and Anne Barrett Wetzel of Princeton, who completed research at the University of Kentucky Department of Animal and Food Sciences with Dr. Roy Burris and Dr. James Matthews.

About the Siemens Competition: The Siemens Foundation established the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology in 1999. The Competition is the nation’s premiere science research competition for high school students and seeks to promote excellence by encouraging students to undertake individual or team research projects. It fosters intensive research that improves students’ understanding of the value of scientific study and informs their consideration of future careers in these disciplines.

About The Gatton Academy: Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential high school for gifted and talented junior and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematical careers. The Gatton Academy has been named the number one public high school in the United States by The Daily Beast for three consecutive years – 2012, 2013 and 2014. Contact: Zack Ryle, (270) 745-2971.

Contact: Derick Strode, (270) 745-3167

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