Each year, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology gives high school students the remarkable opportunity to achieve national recognition for their scientific research, as well as win up to 100,000 dollars in scholarship money. Past Siemens winners often go on to become great in their fields as well as contribute huge developments to the scientific community, starting from their high school research projects.
To participate, high school students must conduct original research in scientific fields ranging from Astrophysics to Toxicology. Using this research, participants then create an 18 page report that is evaluated by a panel of research scientists on criteria such as scientific excellence and clarity of communication. Winners need to have not only conducted groundbreaking and thorough research, but also be extremely well versed in their fields.
Today I met with one of Maryland’s three regional finalists, Molly Zhang, a senior from Richard Montgomery High School, to learn more about her award winning project and past experiences in science.
What did you study for your research project?
Zhang: My Siemens project involves the synthesis of gold bellflowers, which are a type of gold nanostructure, for potential application in cancer treatment. My research was done when I worked at the National Institutes of Health, during which I had to fabricate the flowers, and characterize them using various scientific instruments around the lab. As a result, I was able to evaluate the efficiency of the gold bellflowers.
What inspired you to conduct this research?
Zhang: One of the projects my mentor suggested when I first entered the lab was that of the synthesis of nanomaterial through a novel triphasic system. I thought that this project was very interesting, so I pursued it, and was able to synthesize gold bellflowers.
The third round, which determined who went on to nationals was the regional event, held at MIT this year. What was it like?
Zhang: The main activities during the regional event at MIT were the public poster exhibition, oral presentations, and private Q&A sessions with a panel of 9 judges. However, I personally believe that the most valuable part of this regional competition experience was the wonderful friends I was able to make.
Tell us a little about how you got involved in science.
Zhang: I’ve always had an inclination towards science ever since my first grade teacher took us to the science fair. I’ve attended a few science programs, such as the Jump Start Program at UMD. Prior to NIH, however, I didn’t really have any official laboratory experience.
What is the next step for you as a competitor in the Siemens competition?
Zhang: As I was named the regional winner, my next steps involve preparing more for the national competition against 5 other individual competitors. The national competition will be early December.
Since you’re a senior this year, how about your next step after high school? Do you see yourself continuing to pursue science in the future?
Zhang: If I have the opportunity, I would like to go back to NIH over the summer. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to pursue in college, and after college, but I’m thinking of doing something in the biomedical sciences.
Starting on December 5th, regional finalists, including Molly, will face the final round of the Siemens Competition to determine who will be the winners of the national champion and recipients of the $100,000 Siemens scholarship.
Article by the MoCo Student staff writer Grace Cheung of Richard Montgomery High School