Teen Science Sensations From California and Oregon Take Regional Title in Prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology

Bioinformatics and Computer Science Research Honored in Nation's Premier Science Research Competition for High School Students at California Institute of Technology

Andrew Liu of Palo Alto, California, Wins Top Individual Prize; Akash Krishnan and Matthew Fernandez of Portland, Oregon, Win Top Team Prize


Sunday, November 14, 2010 8:08 am EST



Public Company Information:

"Each year, the Siemens Foundation invites America's high school students to make their mark in the world of science"

A promising new technique for extracting meaning from genomic data and computer science research on recognition of emotion in the human voice earned top honors tonight for Andrew Liu and the team of Akash Krishnan and Matthew Fernandez in the Region One Finals of the 2010-11 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, the nation's premier science research competition for high school students.

The Siemens Competition, a signature program of the Siemens Foundation, is administered by the College Board. Tonight's winners will receive thousands of dollars in scholarships and be invited to compete at the National Finals in Washington, DC, December 3–6, 2010, where the winners of six regional competitions will vie for the $100,000 Grand Prize and national acclaim for extraordinary scientific achievement at the high school level.

"Each year, the Siemens Foundation invites America's high school students to make their mark in the world of science," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, President of the Siemens Foundation. "We commend these students on rising to the challenge and pushing the envelope of scientific thought."

The students presented their research this weekend to a panel of judges from California Institute of Technology (Caltech), host of the Region One Finals.

The Winning Individual

Andrew Liu, a senior at Henry M. Gunn Senior High School in Palo Alto, California, won the individual category and a $3,000 college scholarship for his bioinformatics project, Accounting for Cross-talk between Signaling Pathways Identifies Novel Model for Early and Late Post-transplant Acute Rejection.

"Mr. Liu developed a more efficient way to extract meaning from the flood of modern genomic data and went on to test it on the problem of acute organ rejection," said competition judge Dr. Brian Williams, senior scientist at Caltech. Mr. Liu used pathway analysis to make it easier to draw a conclusion from a large volume of data. His promising results make predictions that will now be tested in the lab. More accurate pathway analysis could benefit many fields of biology, because the wealth of unanalyzed data spans disciplines from transplants to cancer. "We were impressed by how deeply Mr. Liu immersed himself in the research," said Dr. Williams. "With further testing, his technique could have a huge influence on both basic and clinical research."

Named Student of the Year at his high school, Mr. Liu is president of the speech and debate club and co-editor of the school's student-run political magazine. Fluent in Mandarin, he is a two-time winner of the Intel Excellence in Computer Science award at the USA Math Olympiad. Mr. Liu hopes to study computer engineering, economics and business in college and to become an executive specializing in high-tech for a philanthropic company. His mentor on the project was Dr. Purvesh Khatri, Post Doctoral Scholar, Stanford University.

The Winning Team

Akash Krishnan and Matthew Fernandez, juniors at Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, Oregon, won the team category and will share a $6,000 scholarship for their computer science project, The Recognition of Emotion in Human Speech.

In their research, the team sought to accurately determine emotion from the human voice. The team was inspired by the movie I, Robot, in which a robot can sense when its user is under stress. Using an emotional speech database with 18,216 files and five emotions (anger, positive, neutral, emphatic, rest), the team developed, trained and tested a classification engine to determine emotions from an input signal. By applying new techniques to emotional speech processing, the team achieved 60 percent accuracy in identifying emotions, well above other researchers' results for the same tests. Emotion recognition has applications in security, lie detection and autism research.

"Recognizing the emotion in a voice is a challenging problem, even for humans. This team took a very creative approach to the problem and made a big leap in performance over previous research," said competition judge Dr. Piotr Dollar, a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. "They embodied the spirit of what this competition is all about, showing great initiative, independence and teamwork."

Mr. Krishnan and Mr. Fernandez have been working together as a team since the seventh grade. Dr. Bevin Daglen served as their mentor on the project. While continuing to improve on methods used in their study, the team has filed for a provisional patent and hopes to develop a device that may help autistic children identify and interpret emotions they are hearing. The students indicate they have also had interest in their project from the US government.

Mr. Krishnan is a veteran of numerous science competitions. He placed first in his district's First Lego League competition for four years running, was a semifinalist in the 2010 Oregon Computer Science Competition, and was awarded Best of Fair with Mr. Fernandez in the Intel ISEF Competition. He plans to pursue computer science and electrical and mechanical engineering in college. He speaks Telegu, plays the piano and clarinet, and has a black belt in Okinawan-style karate.

Mr. Fernandez is captain of his school's Lemelson-MIT Inventeam and cross country team. A member of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), he has won awards in the Aardvark Science Expo, Northwest Science Expo and Intel ISEF Competition, and was invited with Mr. Krishnan to Portugal to attend the European Union Contest for Young Scientists. Mr. Fernandez plans to pursue engineering and computer science in college.

Regional Finalists

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

  • Bonnie Lei, Walnut High School, Walnut, California
  • Abhishek Venkataramana, Saratoga High School, Saratoga, California
  • Sean Wang, South Pasadena High School, South Pasadena, California
  • Scott Zhuge, Palo Alto High School, Palo Alta, California

Team Regional Finalists were:

  • Lesley Chan and Edward Huang, Troy High School, Fullerton, California
  • Ryan Chow, Leland High School, San Jose, California, and Eric Huang, Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, California
  • Eric Wu, Miramonte High School, Orinda, California, and Hannah Lee, Campolindo High School, Moraga, California
  • Angela Zhang, Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, California, and Jacqueline Wang, The Harker School, San Jose, California

The Siemens Competition

The Siemens Competition was launched in 1998 to recognize America's best and brightest math and science students. Every fall, America turns its eye to the brilliant young scientists competing in the Siemens Competition. 2,033 students registered to enter the Competition this year for a record number of 1,372 projects submitted. 312 students were named semifinalists and 94 were named regional finalists, representing 36 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 the Siemens Foundation on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sfoundation) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/SiemensFoundation) for updates throughout the 2010-11 Siemens Competition. Then visit www.siemens-foundation.org at 9:30 am EST on December 6 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, visit www.siemens-foundation.org.

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 5,700 of the nation'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.

B-roll and photos of winners available on request.