Society for Science announced Wednesday that Paulomi Bhattacharya, grade 12, has been named one of 40 finalists in this year’s Intel Science Talent Search, becoming the first Harker student to be named an Intel STS finalist and a Siemens contest finalist in the same year. Bhattacharya, who was also a Siemens finalist last year, “is a classic example of a student who has gone through our whole research program,” said science department chair Anita Chetty.
Bhattacharya found the inspiration for her project, titled “A Novel AAA-ATPase p97/VCP Inhibitor Lead for Multiple Myeloma by Fragment-Based Drug Design: A Computational Binding Model and NMR/SPR-Based Validation,” while interviewing for a position at the California Institute of Quantitative Biosciences at Univeristy of California, San Francisco, last year. “As I discussed possible projects with my professor, he mentioned a post-doctoral research group in the department that was working on a National Cancer Institute-funded project,” she said. “But the target protein was proving to be very difficult, and even after a year they had few significant results.”
Eager to help and seeking a new experience, Bhattacharya joined the team and began working on one of three unexplored drug target regions. “I designed an independent project and worked separately from the group throughout the summer, reading background literature, learning the molecular modeling techniques, using NMR/SPR spectroscopies, and learning the underlying theories of physics and chemistry,” she said.
In choosing the project, Bhattacharya expressed her desire to add to the field of cancer research. “I know far too many who have fought cancer without success,” she said. “Consequently, I jumped at the opportunity to pursue a cure for multiple myeloma. The cause that I was fighting for strengthened my resolve to creatively make an impact by scientific advancement.”
In addition to her success in these contests, Bhattacharya has also been an active member of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (WiSTEM) and other clubs, written for the Triple Helix Online and presented at the Harker Research Symposium on multiple occasions. “She represents a student who has taken advantage of not only the clubs, but of internships, research classes and the many other opportunities available to her in the research program,” Chetty said.
Bhattacharya has expressed her thanks to the many Harker teachers in various programs and disciplines who have supported and mentored her since she started at Harker in grade 5, including lower school history teacher Pat Walsh, middle school math teacher Vandana Kadam, middle school biology teacher Lorna Claerbout, middle school history teacher Cyrus Merrill, upper school science department teachers Chetty, Mala Raghavan, Chris Spenner, Robbie Korin and Richard Page and math teacher Victor Adler.
She also mentioned her sincere gratitude to her professor at UCSF, Dr. Matthew Jacobs, “for giving me the opportunity to work with him in this emerging field,” and her post-doctoral mentor at UCSF, Dr. Michael Chimenti, for offering his guidance to her throughout the project.
Read about Bhattacharya and the other finalists in these articles: