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PA BioGENEius Challenge Winners

Apr 30, 2012

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology hosted the 2012 Pennsylvania BioGENEius Challenge on Saturday, April 28th.  This science fair is for high school students performing original research in the rapidly expanding field of biotechnology. 

The 25 participating students had already competed in local competitions and were selected to bring their projects to the state capital to see which would go on to represent Pennsylvania at the U.S. National Challenge. 

State Representative Glen Grell welcomed the competitors during the opening ceremony.   Judges from local colleges, universities, and biotech industry interviewed the competitors and scored their projects.

First place awards, and an all-expense paid trip to Boston for the U.S. Nationals, went to Gaurav Sirdeshpande and Kevin Zhang.

Gaurav, a senior at Hempfield High School in Lancaster, experimented with methods that farmers can use to increase their production of methane gas from manure-digesting bioreactors.  Methane, also known as natural gas, is a valuable source of energy.  This is the second time for Gaurav to represent Pennsylvania at the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge.

Kevin Zhang, a senior from Hatboro-Horsham High School in Ambler, analyzed the toxicity of graphene oxide nanoribbons.  As nanotechnology plays an increasingly important role in modern medicine it is important that scientists understand the effects which new nano-scale materials may have on human health. 

Four students earned second-place awards.  Kanika Sarma, a freshman at Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh, compared the use of antibiotics and bacteriophages for fighting infections.  Suhana Jagadesan, a junior at Governor Mifflin Senior High School near Reading, experimented with the interactions of antibiotics, temperature, and different species of bacteria commonly associated with strep throat.  Frances Anne Tosto, a senior at St. Josephs High School near Pittsburgh, explored and identified the microbial community that live in waste waters from Marcellus Shale gas wells.  Kelly Gresh, a freshman from Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School near Philadelphia, explored a new technique for extracting biofuel from algae using ultrasonic energy.

The Pennsylvania BioGENEius Challenge is hosted every spring at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology which offers several academic programs in the field of biotechnology.

The top ten (10) winners of the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge will advance to the International BioGENEius Challenge held in Boston, Massachusetts on June 18, 2012, in conjunction with the BIO Annual International Convention. Finalists will showcase their talent and research to a prestigious panel of expert biotech judges and will display their projects to approximately 20,000 convention participants.

Founded in 2001 to address Central Pennsylvania's need for increased opportunities for study leading to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, Harrisburg University is an innovative and ambitious private institution that produces graduates who provide increased competence and capacity in science and technology disciplines to Pennsylvania and the nation. Harrisburg University ensures institutional access for underrepresented students and links learning and research to practical outcomes. As a private University serving the public good, Harrisburg University remains the only STEM-focused comprehensive university located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

For more information on the University's demand-driven undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs in applied science and technology fields, call 717.901.5146 or email