University of Delaware
Lt. Gov. Matt Denn congratulates Delaware BioGENEius Challenge award winner Achille Tenkiang.


High school students, teachers honored at BioGENEius ceremony


3:04 p.m., May 31, 2012--Two high school science students and two teachers were honored at the Delaware BioGENEius Challenge awards ceremony held Wednesday, May 30, at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) at the University of Delaware. 

Delaware Lt. Gov. Matt Denn announced the winners and University President Patrick Harker joined Kelvin Lee, DBI director and Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering, in welcoming the awardees and their guests to the second annual event. 

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Priyen Patel, a junior from Sussex Technical High School, and Achille Tenkiang, a junior from the Charter School of Wilmington, were selected to represent Delaware at the National BioGENEius Challenge on June 18 in Boston. 

“I am honored to celebrate these students and their achievements today,” Denn said. “These are some of the brightest young minds we have, and I look forward to watching them continue to excel.” 

The student honorees were selected from among the winners of New Castle County Science Expo, the Kent County Science Fair and the Sussex County Science Fair events.

Student finalists also included Bansri Patel, a sophomore at Sussex Technical High School, who received an honorable mention award; Emma Barnes  of the Charter School of Wilmington; Gopika Lakshmanan and William McCabe, both of Indian River High School; Melissa Schoonfield of Sussex Central High School; and Jamie Weber of Tall Oaks Classical School.

Nominated by their students, teacher awardees were Corey Heacock of Indian River High School and Michele Thomas of the Sussex Academy of Arts and Letters. 

“UD is proud to help organize the challenge -- proud to be a part of Delaware’s incredibly strong tradition of scientific innovation and to help cultivate the next generation of scientific leaders,” Harker said. “The University is home to some truly groundbreaking scientific research, from a Nobel-winning discovery that enabled modern DNA sequencing to novel methods for making biofuels from sustainable agriculture. We hope many of the finalists will choose to take their prodigious talent to UD.”

Students at the local, national and international competitions are evaluated on the quality of their research and display, as well as their responses to questions relating to the scientific knowledge and potential commercial applications of their research.

“The Delaware Biotechnology Institute is excited to partner with bioscience companies to encourage interest in science,” said Lee. “The students’ hard work and talents really shine through in their research projects and demonstrate a lot of promise for our future in Delaware.” 

The two Delaware finalists will receive an all-expense paid trip to compete at the national challenge, which will be held during the 2012 Biotechnology Industry Organization International Convention. 

At the national competition, 10 finalists will be chosen to compete with peers from Canada and Australia at the international BioGENEius Challenge. Final winners will be announced at the convention’s June 19 keynote luncheon.

About the students

Priyen Patel's project was titled “The Effects of Bisphenol A on the Differentiation of the 3T3-L1 Cells.” Patel said, “It’s really exciting that DBI would give us this wonderful opportunity. I wanted to find out what I could about my subject. I’d like to go to medical school and do research too.” 

Achille Tenkiang researched “Powering the Future Phase II: A Novel Paradigm for a Multi-Enzyme Fuel Cell Via Optimized Intracellular Reactions from Bioelectrocatalysts.” Tenkiang said he enjoyed working with UD's Wilfred Chen, Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Heejae Kim, a doctoral student and teaching assistant in the College of Engineering. “I would like to work in the area of alternate fuel cell enzymes and help develop this technology for countries in the Third World,” he said.

Challenge observations

Bansri Patel, whose project was titled “The Effects of BMAA on SH-SY5Y Cells,” said, “My seventh grade science teacher Michele Thomas really got me interested in science. I would like to go into the field of medicine, both as a doctor and a medical researcher.” 

Thomas said she "taught three of the kids here today, and that makes me so proud. The important thing about this program is that it gives students an opportunity for collaboration, and the competition makes it fun for them.” 

“I think this is a great competition," Heacock said. "Science is one of a few areas that taps the imagination and curiosity of students and gives them the opportunity to go on to do wonderful things.”

About the competition

The Delaware competition is sponsored by AstraZeneca, Gore, QPS, Siemens, DuPont and the DBI faculty and staff.  

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of global pharmaceutical company Sanofi, and Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, of Johnson and Johnson, are the lead sponsors of the National BioGENEius Challenge. 

The International BioGENEius Challenge is organized by the Biotechnology Institute, the national organization dedicated to biotechnology education. 

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photos by Ambre Alexander

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