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4 Gatton Academy students named semifinalists in 2016 Siemens Competition

Four Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky students have been recognized as national semifinalists in the 2016 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology.

Amber Carroll, a second-year student from Russellville (Logan County High School), Reese Danzer, a second-year student from Walton (Walton-Verona High School), Sherafghan Khan, a second-year student from Hopkinsville (University Heights Academy), and Olivia Urso, a second-year student from Glencoe (Gallatin County High School), were honored by the competition.

Amber Carroll

Amber Carroll

Olivia Urso

Olivia Urso

Carroll, daughter of Jennifer Bedel and Doug Carroll, and Urso, daughter of Anne Sohacki and Tim Urbanski, began their team research project a year ago under the mentorship of Dr. Rodney King, WKU Biology professor. During the summer, they were awarded a Gatton Research Internship Grant to continue their study full-time through an intensive internship.  The goal was to identify essential viral genes in an E. coli bacteriophage, HK639, through genomic engineering and use a genetic engineering technique to systematically replace bacteriophage genes to determine their necessity for bacteriophage growth.

“Experimentation and generating data are only part of the scientific process,” Dr. King said.  “The analysis and organization of data into a presentable form is an essential element that often poses a significant challenge. The Siemens competition provides an excellent opportunity for students to experience the entire process of scientific inquiry. Olivia and Amber were up to the challenge and were dedicated to developing a report worthy of the recognition they received. They both have bright futures and the honor of being a semifinalist in a national scientific competition is a harbinger of their future success.”

Reese Danzer

Reese Danzer

Danzer, son of Keri Kaeding and Steve Danzer, began his research in May under the mentorship of Dr. Christina Gross, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He was awarded a Gatton Research Internship Grant to conduct full-time research through an intensive internship. Danzer studied the effects of a micro-RNA on Kv4.2, a potassium channel thought to help regulate seizures.

Dr. Gross said: “Reese quickly grasped the significance and goals of our research and came up with his own ideas and suggestions for improvement. Reese was involved in graduate-level projects investigating microRNAs and epilepsy, and actually had to handle two very different tasks – a computer-based, more analytical project involving EEG analysis, and a hands-on bench-related project involving cultured neurons and fluorescence microscopy. He mastered both with ease – in the lab as well as in his written report! We hope to include his EEG analysis in a publication soon, and his bench work pioneered a new method in the lab that we will use in our future studies.”

Sherafghan Khan

Sherafghan Khan

Khan, son of Huma and Rizwan Khan, began his research project in May under the mentorship of Dr. Dana Borden Lacy, Professor at Vanderbilt University Medical School’s Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology. Also supported by a Gatton Research Internship Grant, Khan’s research focused on the discovery of a range of amino acids on TcdB, a protein toxin involved in Clostridium difficile infection, that are involved in pore formation of endosomes.

“Khan is an intelligent and mature student who stands out because of his curiosity, enthusiasm, and willingness to work hard,” said Dr. Lacy. “Khan worked extremely hard during his time in my lab, not because I told him to, but because he was excited about what he was doing.  I am thrilled to see that hard work recognized by the Siemens organization.”

The Siemens Competition is the nation’s premier science research competition for high school students.  The Siemens Competition received over 1,700 student submissions this year.

semifinalist-lg“I am very proud of the perseverance demonstrated by our four semifinalists,” said Dr. Lynette Breedlove, Director of The Gatton Academy.  “They took the initiative to find research opportunities and applied for Gatton Summer Research Internship Grants. They took on the challenge of tackling rigorous research opportunities in the summer, working with outstanding faculty mentors. Then, they worked through the submission process while taking a full load of college courses. Reaching the level of semifinalist is an incredible honor and recognition of the dedication Amber, Reese, Khan and Olivia have demonstrated in pursuing their research interests.”

About the Siemens Competition: The Siemens Foundation established the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology in 1999. The Competition is the nation’s premier 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 to the Washington Post’s list of top-performing schools with elite students for eight consecutive years and was 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.


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