Local Student Honored for Scientific Research

Local Student Honored for Scientific Research

Daniel Chae and his teammates won a $30,000 scholarship in Siemens Competition.

A high school senior from Oakton received a national honor recently for a scientific research project on 3-D tissue printing. Daniel Chae, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, was named a national finalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

Chae hopes that his research will draw others into the discipline. “If there were to be a dramatic advancement of society using discoveries in science, then more people would become engaged in science and math,” he said.

Along with his teammates Alan Tan of Fremont, Calif. and Sidharth Bommakanti of Pleasanton, Calif., Chae beat out hundreds of high school students from around the country to make it to the national competition. The team presented their project at the National Finals in Washington, D.C., earlier this month and will share a $30,000 scholarship.

“These students have invested significant time and energy developing highly sophisticated projects that advance research and exploration in critical fields," said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation.

The research project assessed 3-D printed structures as an alternative to plating dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) for use as implants. The team found that DPSCs are able to differentiate substantially more on 3-D prints than on currently used structures, suggesting that 3-D printed structures could be a cheaper and better alternative for bone or dental implants.

The team was able to convert the challenge of having two different kinds of 3-D printers in the lab into an opportunity by comparing the structures from the two printers, which helped draw conclusions about the reproducibility of 3-D printers.

“If there were to be a dramatic advancement of society using discoveries in science, then more people would become engaged in science and math.”

— Daniel Chae, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

The collaborators created a plan for managing their geographic and time zone differences. “We dealt with that by dividing up the work and knowing what each person’s responsibility would be,” said Chae.

They used Skype and social media to connect with each other. "From the first day we recognized the variety of perspectives within our team,” said Tan. “These very perspectives are what caused our success together.”

“Daniel was an integral part of the team, providing guidance as well as friendship," added Bommakanti.

Chae, whose role model is American scientist Linus Pauling, says that he realized his predilection for science and math as early as sixth grade when he joined a MathCounts team. In seventh grade he competed in the Science Olympiad and a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. “In seventh grade I also had a math teacher who inspired me to continue pursuing a high level of math,” said Chae.

Chae is a chemistry and biology tutor and says he spends about six hours studying each evening, staying up as late as two o’clock in the morning. Outside of the science lab, Chae enjoys archery and is proficient in Korean. He is also the co-president of the Latin Honor Society at Thomas Jefferson.

“Daniel is fantastic and is one of my right hand men running my Latin organizations,” said Christine Conklin, a teacher at Thomas Jefferson and faculty co-sponsor of the Latin Honor Society.

Chae has a weighted grade point average of 4.5 and plans to attend college next fall and continue his scientific pursuits. “I’m still interested in studying chemical and biological engineering and becoming a medical doctor.”

Established in 1999, the by the Siemens Foundation, the Siemens Competition supports intensive research that improves students' understanding of the value of scientific study and informs their consideration of future careers in these disciplines.