photo courtesy MRSF Junior Kevin Rao, sophomore Lucas Mayhew, freshman Sabrina Ye, junior Michael Pang, and junior Pranav Neyveli (l to r) with trophies from Metro Richmond STEM Fair.

photo courtesy MRSF
Junior Kevin Rao, sophomore Lucas Mayhew, freshman Sabrina Ye, junior Michael Pang, and junior Pranav Neyveli (l to r) with trophies from Metro Richmond STEM Fair.

At Godwin, students in the Center for Medical Sciences work with prominent issues in the fields of math and science.

Every year, each student in the center is required to complete a research project in which they design an experiment that creatively solves a real-world problem.

Then, they submit an application to the Metro Richmond STEM Fair (MRSF), which is typically held in March, and compete against other top students from schools around the region.

At the fair, the students are placed into different categories depending on the project, and they are judged by professionals in the field. The first place winners in each category become nominees for the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) held later in the spring.

After the nominees go through a second round of judging, the top five winners receive a trip to ISEF.

This year, Godwin collected many awards and all five ISEF finalists were Godwin students. From first place to fifth place the winners were junior Pranav Neyveli, junior Michael Pang, freshman Sabrina Ye, junior Kevin Rao, and sophomore Lucas Mayhew.

ISEF will be held May 14-18 in Los Angeles. Around 1,750 of the most promising STEM students come together and compete in this fair.

In each category, there are multiple fourth, third, and second place winners. Out of two first place winners, one wins Best in Category. All of the Best in Category winners are judged for the top three prizes: $75,000, $50,000, or $25,000.

Neyveli competed in the Medicine and Health category at MRSF and will be competing in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at ISEF. For his project, he designed a computer program to combat cancer by creating new drugs.

Over four months, he developed an algorithm that takes protein-based drugs and enhances affinity that better binds to cancer cells. Most of the project was done at home, but he also worked with a cell-in-tissue engineer at VCU.

“I started with a small computer algorithm that identified potential binding sites, and then, I incorporated Artificial Intelligence to create a Siri-like application to discover protein based drugs,” said Neyveli.

Pang competed in the Environmental Science at MRSF and will be competing in Environmental Engineering at ISEF.

Inspired by the clean-up of Fukushima, Pang designed a project involving the removal of radioactive strontium using cost-effective biosorbents.

His project showed that crab shells can be reliable- yet economical- and used as an alternative to the expensive cation resin filtration system.

Pang worked in the school lab and at the VCU Department of Instrumentation with the director of the department over 10 days.

Both Pang and Neyveli agreed that the opportunity to attend ISEF provides them with beneficial life experiences.

Neyveli, who one day hopes to work in the bioinformatics field, said, “I am excited to be able to present my research in front of qualified scientists.”

The fair allows students to see what other student researchers are doing and gives them the opportunity to make a global impact.

Pang said, “You are exposed to a true scientific environment and are able to apply things you learn in the classroom to a real-life setting.”

In addition to expanding scientific knowledge, students learn valuable lessons about the working world as they complete their projects.

“Also, it was an excuse to eat more crabs,” said Pang.


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