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GA Junior Qualifies for International Science and Engineering Fair

On Monday, April 20, 2020, 11 Germantown Academy Upper School science research students competed in the virtual Delaware Valley Science Fair (DVSF), which includes schools from the Lehigh Valley to southern Delaware, and from Chester County to the New Jersey shore. In total, five GA students earned 1st, 2nd, 3rd place, or honorable mention awards, including junior Emily Wang '21, who won the 1st Place Award for 11th Grade Engineering and a Gold Medal award for having the No. 1 project of all 11th grade students, which qualified her for the prestigious Regeneron International Science and Engineering (ISEF) Fair.

All medal winners at the Delaware Valley Science Fair (best three projects of all projects in a grade), including Wang, also earned a partial scholarship to Drexel University. 

"Firstly, I’m just so honored and grateful to have received these awards!" said Wang. "This is my third year presenting at the DVSF, and it sounds cliché, but truthfully, I never expected that I would place in the engineering category, let alone be a gold medalist for the entire 11th grade. I found out about the results from one of my friends texting me about it, and when I went to the DVSF website, I was truly in shock to see my name on their list of winners. Now, a couple of weeks later, I’m still a little in disbelief! At this year’s DVSF, there were 16 engineering projects for the 11th grade division, and 136 total 11th grade projects, so to be considered the top project among everyone in the Delaware Valley Area is an incredible feeling and so exciting. Anyone who does science research and competes in science fair can confirm that months of research and work goes on behind the scenes, and I'm so proud to have my hard work be recognized by the judges. Science also consists of both the actual experimentation as well as the storytelling that comes with sharing the work, and I’m so appreciative that the message behind my work and the passion I have for my project was able to resonate with the judges."

"Being named an ISEF finalist is a dream come true," added Wang. "My friends who also participate in science fair and I would always joke about qualifying for ISEF, and I certainly never seriously entertained the idea that I one day would actually qualify! Although I’m a little sad that due to current circumstances ISEF was unable to occur this year, I’m honored to be selected to be in the company of such bright and talented students from all over the world. Despite the fact that this year’s fairs were virtual, I am just grateful to DVSF and ISEF for giving me the opportunity to share my research with the scientific community!"

Due to the current pandemic, the 2020 ISEF Fair, which was scheduled to take place in Anaheim, California, was cancelled. 

For Wang's project, Wearable Lactate Sensor: Effective Biomarker Monitoring, she designed and fabricated "a sensor using microfluidic technology that is able to detect a patient’s lactate level (in relation to sepsis/septic shock) through color changing paper disks, much like how pH paper can measure pH values since each pH has a corresponding color."

"I chose to pursue a microfluidic device, also called a “lab on a chip,” since it only requires microliters of fluid to conduct an analysis and therefore would fit on a sticker or patch," said Wang. "As a healthcare device, this technology would make the detection process easy, immediate, and comfortable for the patient, allowing patients to monitor their health independently and passively without constant surveillance by a healthcare professional."

Wang's inspiration to begin to research sepsis came from a poster on a SEPTA train that read "Every year, a least 1.7 million Americans develop sepsis, and nearly 270,000 die.” Curious about sepsis, she dove into a night of research.

"As I read the stories of sepsis patients, I thought about tiny infants and the weak elderly, who make up the majority of sepsis patients, giving up milliliters of blood in order to measure their lactate levels," said Wang. "I learned that eighty percent of deaths from sepsis that could have been prevented by an earlier diagnosis, but weren’t because of issues like cost or accessibility, and that with each hour of delayed treatment, the mortality rate increases by eight percent. After discovering this heartbreaking information, I wanted to find a way to help everyone receive the personal care they need, and so I began brainstorming concepts for a point-of-care device that would make the measuring of biomarkers affordable and accessible."

Before Wang produced her microfluidic device, she spent weeks reading literature and doing background research.

"Once I had my ideas, I then sat down with a pen and paper to sketch nine variations of device shapes and channel designs, out of which three were chosen and modeled digitally on a CAD (computer-aided design) software," said Wang. "Since my research project was in engineering, my testing process consisted of a lot of prototyping. I first had to learn how to use the lab equipment, since microfluidics was something I was learning while doing my project. When making my prototypes, I used three different materials, and with each I had to troubleshoot and understand why each material behaved the way it did. It took months before I was able to successfully fabricate a microfluidic sensor. Finally, after the experimentation, I had to compile all of my research and data into a compelling research paper and poster board. Science fair projects are a lot of work, but I’m really proud of what I was able to accomplish in just half a year!"

Wang said that she is planning on studying chemical engineering in college.

"That being said, science and engineering are incredibly interdisciplinary, so I hope to learn about all fields, from material science, to mechanical engineering, to bioengineering, to electrical engineering, to computer science, and more!" said Wang.

Here at GA, she really has enjoyed her science classes and teachers.

"My science classes have always been ones that I continually look forward to every day," said Wang. "My two favorite science subjects would have to be chemistry and robotics. I’ve taken both Chemistry (Honors) and AP Chemistry with Mr. Anderson, and I’ve loved being able to explore and learn about the ways in which the world works at a particulate level. I also really enjoy the labs, since I get hands on experience and I’m able to see the applications of chemical concepts. Robotics with Ms. Goldstein and Mr. Rheam has also been such an influential course to me, teaching me how to think creatively and problem solve. It’s also led me to join the robotics team at GA, where I’ve made great friends and a lot of fun memories! Lastly, of course, I’ve enjoyed working with Mrs. Kesten in the Independent Science Research Project class. This class allows me to pursue the research I am passionate about and gave me the opportunity to be an ISEF finalist!"

Delaware Valley Science Fair - Germantown Academy Results

9th Kayla D'Eletto Can Disabled Voices Be Able To Use Voice ID on AI? Behavior 1st   1  
9th Sarah Sandifer Comparison of Geotextiles and Grass on Erosion Control Environmental        
9th Samuel Wang Predicting influenza outbreaks with a machine learning model Computers 1st   1  
9th Spencer Westover Effect of industrial toxins on C. elegans behavior Zoology        
10th Sangeetha Bhuyan Protein Denaturation of Invasive Spotted Lantern Fly Zoology        
10th Jeff Cheng Neural Networks in Medicine: Diabetic Retinopathy Detection Computers        
11th Kevin Cui Karaoke “Shazam”: Audio Processing with Neural Networks Computers        
11th Anthony Kostacos Examining the execution of protocols relating to concussions from teachers Behavior        
11th Sarah Rojas Dysbiosis in brown planaria with probiotics Microbiology 2nd Place   1  
11th Emily Wang Wearable Lactate Sensor: Effective Biomarker Monitoring Engineering 1st  DVSF 1st Place Award Gold Medalist 11th grade, Drexel University partial scholarship 2 Finalist
11th Eileen Zhang Analyzing the Effects of the Opioid Crisis on Lifespan Medicine & Healthy        


No special awards were given at Montgomery County Science Research Competition or Delaware Valley Science Fair due to the logistical issues with holding virtual fairs.  FULL WINNER LIST (PDF).

"Please congratulate all of the Science Research students, as they spent the school year diligently designing their projects, collecting data, preparing a PowerPoint presentation for Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Sciences Fair, preparing a poster board presentation and research paper for the virtual Montgomery County Science Research Competition and Delaware Valley Science Fair competitions. Congrats, everyone!" said Director of Science Research Sarah Kesten.