Computer Science And Microbiology Research Pays Off For Maryland And Virginia Students With Siemens Competition Regional Win At

Computer Science And Microbiology Research Pays Off For Maryland And Virginia
 Students With Siemens Competition Regional Win At Massachusetts Institute of

Young Scientists Gain Opportunity to Shine on National Stage

Samuel Pritt of Walkersville, Maryland, Wins Top Individual Prize; Neil Davey
of Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Katie Barufka of Reston, Virginia, Win Top Team

PR Newswire

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 3, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --Months of dedication and hard
work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) paid off tonight for
three students named National Finalists in the Siemens Competition in Math,
Science & Technology, the nation's premier research competition. Research
based on a computer vision approach to geolocating photographs earned top
honors and the $3,000 Individual scholarship for Samuel (Sam) Pritt of
Walkersville, Maryland. Microbiology research with applications in
leishmaniasis vaccine development won the $6,000 Team scholarship for Neil
Davey of Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Katie Barufka of Reston, Virginia.

The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges from
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, host of the Region Five Finals. They
are now invited to present their work on a national stage at the National
Finals in Washington, DC, December 1-4, 2012, where $500,000 in scholarships
will be awarded, including two top prizes of $100,000. The Siemens
Competition, a signature program of the Siemens Foundation, is administered by
the College Board.

"These students have invested time, energy and talent in tackling challenging
scientific research at a young age," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of
the Siemens Foundation. "The recognition they have won today demonstrates
that engagement in STEM is an investment well worth making."

The Winning Individual

Sam Pritt, a home schooled senior, won the individual category and a $3,000
college scholarship for research that addresses an important real-world
problem of determining where a photograph was taken. His work has broad
potential applications, from tourism and organizing photos on the web to

In his project, Geolocation of Photographs by Means of Horizon Matching with
Digital Elevation Models, Sam combined his twin passions of computer
programming and image processing to develop an algorithm for geolocating
photographs by matching the appearance of horizon curves extracted from images
to those generated from digital elevation maps (DEMs).

"Sam demonstrated significant initiative and creativity in developing a
computer vision approach that uses publicly available DEMs to accomplish
'geo-localization,'" said competition judge Dr. Pawan Sinha, Professor, MIT
Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences. "His initial results are
encouraging and he has plans to augment his approach to bring it closer to
real-world deployment." 

Sam is a student intern in the Frederick National Lab for Cancer Research and
a student member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
(IEEE). Passionate about playing the piano, he is especially proud of winning
the Frederick Regional Youth Orchestra 2012 Concerto Competition. He
presented a paper at the IEEE 2012 International Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Symposium in Munich, Germany and was a finalist and second place grand award
winner at the 2012 International Science and Engineering Fair. Sam plans to
major in computer science and pursue a career in chemical or biomedical
engineering. He was mentored by his father, Dr. Mark Pritt.

The Winning Team

Neil Davey, a junior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring,
Maryland, and Katie Barufka, a senior at Langley High School in McLean,
Virginia, won the team category and will share a $6,000 scholarship for
research that brings us a step closer to a vaccine for the debilitating
infectious disease Leishmaniasis.

In their project, Deletion of Endonuclease G disrupts mitochondrial
homeostasis and leads to reduced virulence in the human protozoan parasite
Leishmania Mexicana, the team used a technique called "homologous
recombination" to 'knock out' the gene EndoG from Leishmania mexicana (the
causative agent in cutaneous Leishmaniasis) to reduce the organism's
viability. Such an "attenuated" form of Leishmania has the potential to be
used as a vaccine.

"Neil and Katie have made an important advance towards the generation of a
vaccine for Leishmaniasis," said competition judge Dr. Jagesh V. Shah,
Associate Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School. "Previous
attempts at vaccines have suffered from the inability to promote long-lasting
immunity or have the effect of causing chronic infection. The team was
especially creative in choosing the gene EndoG because they understood that it
would cause long-term defects in the organism's viability when in the human
host. They were thus able to find a sweet spot where they believe the
organism will live long enough to generate an immune response but not long
enough to cause an infection."

Neil was a finalist at The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), a global
entrepreneurship competition. He holds two patent applications related to
autonomous robots and one protecting the SWAP business plan. Neil tutors
students in science, engineering and math and is a member of the varsity
tennis team. Fluent in Sanskrit, Gujarat and Hindi, he volunteers and teaches
at Samskrita Bharati, a nonprofit organization that promotes spoken Sanskrit.
Neil plans to study biochemistry, finance, and/or South Asian Studies. He
would like to work in the field of drug and vaccine discovery, and eventually
become a CEO of a pharmaceutical company.

Katie has a deeply personal connection to her research. Her mother has
struggled with Lyme disease for the past nine years. Similarly to Lyme
disease, Leishmaniasis is transferred to humans through an insect bite.
Katie's hope was to help towards the goal of developing an effective vaccine.
Katie placed first in her high school science fair, earned second place in the
regional science fair, and is the winner of a Student Athlete award. She is a
member of Science Honor and Leadership Honor Societies and captain of her high
school cheer team. She plans to study psychology and nursing in college and
is considering becoming a psychologist or nurse.

The team's mentor was Dr. Sreenivas Gannavaram, Center for Biologics
Evaluation and Research, FDA.

Regional Finalists

The remaining regional finalists each received a $1,000 scholarship. Regional
Finalists in the individual category were:

  oAmanpreet Kandola, Richmond Hill, New York
  oJongyoon Lee, Little Neck, New York
  oAashna Mago, Newtown, Pennsylvania
  oLijia Xie, Lansdale, Pennsylvania

Team Regional Finalists were:

  oEsther Huang and Anna Huang, Houston, Texas
  oAllen Lee and Jason Lee, Short Hills, New Jersey, and David Lu, Henrico,
  oGeorge Qi and Vinciane Chen, Austin, Texas, and Robert Tung, Plano, Texas
  oKimberley Yu and Phillip Yu, Plano, Texas

The Siemens Competition

Launched in 1998, the Siemens Competition is the nation's premier science
research competition for high school students. 2,255 students registered to
enter the Siemens Competition this year for a total 1,504 projects submitted.
323 students were named semifinalists and 93 were named regional finalists,
representing 25 states. Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed
scientists at six leading research universities which host the regional
competitions: California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University,
Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
University of Notre Dame and The University of Texas at Austin.

Follow us on the road to the Siemens Competition: Follow us on Twitter
@SFoundation (#SiemensComp) and like us on Facebook at SiemensFoundation.
Then visit at 9:30am EST on December 4 for a live
webcast of the National Finalist Awards Presentation.

The Siemens Foundation

The Siemens Foundation provides more than $7 million annually in support of
educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Its signature programs include the
Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, Siemens Awards for Advanced
Placement, and The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, which encourages
K-12 students to develop innovative green solutions for environmental issues.
By supporting outstanding students today, and recognizing the teachers and
schools that inspire their excellence, the Foundation helps nurture tomorrow's
scientists and engineers. The Foundation's mission is based on the culture of
innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens'
U.S. companies and its parent company, Siemens AG. For more information,

The College Board

The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that
connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the
College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the
membership association is made up of more than 6,000 of the world's leading
educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity
in education. Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million
students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and
services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT^® and
the Advanced Placement Program^®. The organization also serves the education
community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and
schools. For further information, visit

Video and photos of winners available on request.

SOURCE The Siemens Foundation

Contact: Kiesha Boykins, Siemens Foundation, +1-732-321-3150,, or Joseph Giumarra, Momentum Communications Group,
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