A group of Harker’s upper school students recently attended the Bioengineering High School Competition (BioEHSC) at UC Berkeley. The annual research and design competition is intended for high school students interested in the fast-growing fields of biotechnology and bioengineering.
The Harker team (Natalie Simonian, grade 11, Natasha Santhanam, grade 11, Madhu Karra, grade 11, Taylor Iantosca, grade 10, and Uma Rao, grade 10) received second place in the category of Biomedical Devices for their project, titled “Automatic Negative Feedback Loop for Amyloidosis.”
The competition, which takes place each spring, is hosted by the UC Berkeley Bioengineering Honor Society. It included poster sessions from schools across the Bay Area, presentations from Berkeley undergraduate researchers and a keynote address from Dr. Jacob Corn, scientific director at the Innovative Genomics Initiative (IGI).
The IGI Lab is composed of branch laboratories at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, which address the IGI’s primary research focus into drug discovery, regulatory variation and treatments for pediatric disease, as well as applications in gene editing.
To help high school students explore bioengineering, BioEHSC asks them to identify a problem in medicine and then design a bioengineering solution in just six weeks. Contestants collaborate in groups (of four or five) and receive mentorship. After the six weeks, the students create a research poster about their problem, proposed solution and analysis of potential concerns. They present their findings for evaluation to a panel of professors and graduate students during the final research symposium.
Upper school biology teacher Mike Pistacchi mentored Harker’s team. “The students did an amazing job of finding creative technical solutions to a medical problem. This involved doing a lot of background research and learning about a wide array of advanced bioengineering concepts and techniques. I really enjoyed meeting with the team because they were so full of great ideas and had a genuine willingness to work hard, learn and innovate. A great learning experience for all!” he said.