Jul 222011

Image by warrantedarrest via Flickr

As a budding inventor and scientist, Shree Bose, in second grade, tried to make blue spinach. In fourth grade she built a remote-controlled garbage can. In eighth grade she invented a railroad tie made out of recycled plastic and granite dust, an achievement that got her to the top 30 in a national science competition for middle school students.

In 11th grade Ms. Bose, a 17-year-old in Fort Worth, tackled ovarian cancer, and that research won her the grand prize and $50,000 in the Google Science Fair last week.

For the winning research Ms. Bose looked at a chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, that is commonly taken by women with ovarian cancer. The problem is that the cancer cells tend to grow resistant to cisplatin over time, and Ms. Bose set out to find a way to counteract that.

She found the answer in a cellular energy protein known as AMPK, or adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase. She observed that when AMPK was paired with cisplatin at the beginning of treatment the combination diminished the effectiveness of cisplatin. But added later on, when the cancer cells were growing resistant, the AMPK worked to maintain the effectiveness of cisplatin, allowing it to continue killing the malignant cells, at least in cell cultures.

“That opens up a lot of new avenues for research,” Ms. Bose said. Her research was supervised by Dr. Alakananda Basu at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.

More than 10,000 students from 91 countries entered the science fair, which was Google’s first. The entries, submitted over the Web, were winnowed down to 60 semifinalists and then 15 finalists who presented their findings to judges at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters last week.

Ms. Bose’s research was named best in the age 17-18 category and best of show over all. Her prize includes $50,000 for future college studies, a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands and a separate trip to visit the CERN particle physics laboratory in Switzerland.

Girls swept all three age categories in the competition, a contrast to generations past when women were largely excluded from the science world.

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