Song Kim ’07 Named a Semi-Finalist in Siemens

High school science standouts have the chance to gain national recognition and up to $100,000 in scholarship money if their research projects qualify them for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology. Song Kim ’07 was named a semi-finalist in this year’s Siemens Westinghouse Science and Research Competition. She was one of 14 Massachusetts students selected for this honor. Students can apply individually or as a two to three member team for the program, which the College Board and the Siemens Foundation sponsor. Every year 1200 teams and individuals submit their projects. Judges make an initial selection of up to 300 applicants in the primary phase of the selection process. The judges are proficient in the subject area pertaining to the project they examine, and have no knowledge of the students beyond their research. Kim worked on a project involving porous-silicon-based biosensor this past summer with mentor Dr. Evangelyn Alocilja at Michigan State University’s Biosystems Department. Using Biotin-Avidin protein-conjugate system, which is highly affinitive, Kim lowered the detection limit of a previously developed biosensor and increased its sensitivity. Silicon, one of the most abundant elements on the earth, is widely available and easily affordable. In addition, porous silicon’s surface area is about 1000 times that of planar silicon, and can thus detect even a very miniscule amount of biomaterial. A graduate student who worked closely with Kim is in the process of developing another biosensor based on her findings. Kim said, “It’s certainly an honor to be named a semi-finalist, but the best part of my work was when a company based in California visited the lab and took a sample of my silicon wafer. The lab’s taken one more step to commercialize the biosensor, and I must admit that it’s pretty cool that I was able to make a contribution to that development.” Through her project, Kim was able to gain a first-hand experience of something she may pursue in the future. “In college, I’ll take some science courses, but I’m not planning on doing a concentration on research sciences since I have other academic interests,” she said. From the pool of semi-finalists, the Initial Phase judges select up to 30 individuals and 30 teams as regional finalists to move forward in the competition. Students are assigned to compete at one of the six regional competitions held at six universities across the United States, including MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, UT Austin, and UC Berkeley. Regional Finalists present their projects in both poster form and in a 12-minute oral presentation. Judges from the host universities conduct a thorough question and answer session. Winners from each Region face off at the national competition, held in New York City. Professional scientists orchestrate the same judging process. Regional runners-up receive bronze medals and $1,000 in scholarship money. The overall winning individual and team both earn $100,000 scholarships. Runners-up are awarded scholarships between $10,000 and $50,000. All national competitors are invited to attend a National Recognition Gala Dinner, which will take place this year on December 3, 2006. This year’s winners will be announced the following day at a press conference.