UT Dallas Lab Work Takes High School Pair
to Victory in Science Competition
Nov. 19, 2007
Quiz time: Which of the following belong on a high school student’s “to do” list?
- Study for the SAT.
- Line up a prom date.
- Discover a controlled-release method to provide nitric oxide for donor organs.
If the latter entry defies expectations, so does the research team of Camden Miller and John Chen.
Research that the two high school students conducted under UT Dallas chemistry faculty members earned them first place and $6,000 in scholarship money earlier this month in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
The students hope to win again when they travel to New York for the finals.
“I sometimes forget that Camden and John are only in high school, since they are conducting research at such a high level without the benefit of university coursework or significant lab experience,” says Kenneth Balkus Jr., a UT Dallas chemistry professor.
Camden, a junior at Allen High School, and John, a junior at Plano East Senior High School, developed their project with the help of graduate student Harvey Liu over the summer in Balkus’ lab.
Camden participated in the university’s NanoExplorer program. John took part in a summer scholar program sponsored by UT Dallas and Plano ISD through the High Technology Education Coalition of Collin County.
Their project, titled “Controlled Release of Nitric Oxide from Electrospun Biodegradable Fibers,” won in the team category Nov. 3 in regional competition at The University of Texas at Austin.
The national finals will be Nov. 30 – Dec. 3 at New York University.
“This team took on a significant real-world problem and developed a new method for delivering controlled amounts of nitric oxide for use in the preservation of organs prior to transplantation,” said David W. Hoffman, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UT Austin.
“The correct amount of nitric oxide increases blood flow and immune response so tissue stays viable longer, but the wrong amount can be toxic. Ms. Miller and Mr. Chen developed a new way of storing nitric oxide in biodegradable fibers to release it in a controlled way.”
The College Board administers the Siemens Competition. Winners of six regional competitions across the United States are invited to compete in the finals and vie for scholarships ranging from $10,000 to the top prize of $100,000.
“Being selected as a finalist for the Siemens competition is a major achievement,” Balkus said. “This means they are now members of an elite group of young scientists. I just hope they continue to conduct research in my lab.”