A Gunn High School student joined two other Bay Area high school students at a ceremony tonight in Washington, D.C., where winners of the Intel Science Talent Search contest were announced.
The three finalists were among 40 high school seniors selected out of 1,800 students from 44 states, each of them competing for more than $1.25 million in scholarship prize money from the Intel Foundation.
Jin Pan, of Gunn High School in Palo Alto, was chosen for his work in bioinformatics and genomics. His entry was titled "A Novel Protein Translation Kinetics Model Supports the Ribosomal Pause Theory." Pan did not place in the top 10, but was recognized on stage as a top-40 finalist in the talent search.
Pan's project shed light into the role that pauses play in the folding of proteins. Proteins have been shown to fold into specific shapes, but how they manage to do this successfully and efficiently remains unknown. One idea has suggested that this is fascilitated by slowing translation.
Jin decided to study this be developing a computer model that he says shows that pauses in protein formation exist to aid folding. If true, this could help researchers design better vaccines, express some proteins at higher rates to make new drugs, and refine computational models used for studying protein structures.
Jin races on Gunn's varsity track team as a sprinter, and is an active member of Match Circles, Science Olympiad and the Ultimate Frisbee team. He is also a highly accomplished chess player--he was Northern California Chess Champion, and an undefeated member of Gunn's chess club during his junior year.
Jin is fluent in Mandarin, and is the son of Chiling Pan and Runhuai Yang. He also teaches a math class he designed himself at Egan Junior High School, and hopes to complete a double major in theoretical math and computer science once in college.
A four-year, $100,000 scholarship was given to the first-place winner, Nithin Reddy Tumma, of Fort Gratiot, Michigan, for his work investigating signal pathways involved in cancer progression.
The contest has been under way for 70 years, and Intel has sponsored it for the past 13 years.
--Bay City News Contributed to this report.