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15-Year-Old Scientist Creates Machine Learning Software Tool to Detect Cancer-Causing Gene Mutations

May 16, 2014

Nathan Han of Boston Wins US$75,000 Top Prize at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair


  • The world’s largest high school science research competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, announced its top winners inLos Angeles.
  • Nathan Han of Boston received the Gordon E. Moore Award, a US$75,000 prize named in honor of the Intel co-founder and fellow scientist.
  • Two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards winners – Lennart Kleinwort of Germany and Shannon Lee of Singapore – each received prizes of US$50,000 from the Intel Foundation.

    LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Nathan Han, 15, of Boston was awarded first place for developing a machine learning software tool to study mutations of a gene linked to breast cancer at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public.

    Using data from publicly available databases, Han examined detailed characteristics of multiple mutations of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene in order to “teach” his software to differentiate between mutations that cause disease and those that do not. His tool exhibits an 81 percent accuracy rate and could be used to more accurately identify cancer threats from BRCA1 gene mutations. Han received the Gordon E. Moore Award of US$75,000, named in honor of the Intel co-founder and fellow scientist.

    Lennart Kleinwort, 15, of Germany received one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards of US$50,000. Kleinwort developed a new mathematical tool for smartphones and tablets that brings capabilities to hand-held devices that previously required more sophisticated and expensive computing tools. His app allows users to hand draw curves, lines and geometric figures on the touch screen and watch the system render them into shapes and equations that can then be manipulated at will.

    Shannon Xinjing Lee, 17, of Singapore received the other Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of US$50,000 for developing a novel electrocatalyst that may be used for batteries of the future. Researchers have been looking for ways to make rechargeable zinc-air batteries practical, as they would be safer, lighter in weight, and have six times the energy density of lithium ion batteries, making them ideal for hybrid vehicles. Lee found that her activated carbon catalyst, which she made entirely from carbonized Chinese eggplant, greatly out-performed a more sophisticated commercial catalyst in stability and longevity tests and will be environmentally friendly and inexpensive to produce.

    “The world needs more scientists, makers and entrepreneurs to create jobs, drive economic growth and solve pressing global challenges,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation. “Intel believes that young people are the key to innovation, and we hope that these winners inspire more students to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math, the foundation for creativity.”

    This year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair featured more than 1,700 young scientists selected from 435 affiliate fairs in more than 70 countries, regions and territories. In addition to the top winners, more than 500 finalists received awards and prizes for their innovative research, including 17 "Best of Category" winners, who each received a US$5,000 prize. The Intel Foundation also awarded a US$1,000 grant to each winner’s school and to the affiliated fair they represent. Additionally, the Intel Foundation presented a select number of students with experiential awards, including the new 11-day trip to China to attend the country’s largest national science competition, speak with researchers at Intel’s lab in Shanghai, and visit the Panda Research Base in Chengdu.

    The following lists the 17 Best of Category winners, from which the top three were chosen:

    Category   First     Last     City     State/Country
    Animal Sciences   Daksh     Dua     Delhi     India
      Abhishek     Verma        
    Behavioral and Social Sciences   Michelle     Marquez     Midlothian     Virginia
    Biochemistry   Ken     Aizawa     Jericho     New York
    Cellular and Molecular Biology   Joshua     Meier     Hackensack     New Jersey
    Chemistry Tai Hei     Chan Hong KongChina
      Er Hai     Fang        
    Computer Science   Yue     Yao     Shanghai     China
    Earth Science   Yu-Hsin     Chen     Taipei City     Chinese Taipei
    Energy and Transportation   Shannon     Lee     Singapore     Singapore
    Engineering: Electrical and Mechanical   Sarah     Galvin     Tempe     Arizona
    Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering   Harry     Paul     Port Washington     New York
    Environmental Management   Faye     Jong     Kuching     Malaysia
    Environmental Sciences   Perry     Algappan     Houston     Texas
    Mathematical Science   Lennart     Kleinwort     Wurzburg     Germany
    Medicine and Health Sciences   Nathan     Han     Boston     Massachusetts
    Microbiology   Logan     Collins     Boulder     Colorado
    Physics and Astronomy   John     Caddell     Pebble Beach     California
    Plant Sciences   Yi-Hsuan     Huang     Taipei City     Chinese Taipei

    Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, has owned and administered the competition since its inception in 1950 as the National Science Fair.

    “In congratulating Nathan, Lennart, and Shannon, we join with Intel in seeing great hope in their research, and that of all of our Intel ISEF finalists,” said Rick Bates, interim CEO and chief advancement officer of Society for Science & the Public. “Not only are they working to discover solutions for society’s challenges, they importantly serve as an inspiration for younger students and encourage them to become involved in the amazing world of hands-on science and engineering.”

    The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair honors the world’s most promising student entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists. Finalists are selected annually from hundreds of affiliated fairs. Their projects are then evaluated onsite by more than 1,200 judges from nearly every scientific discipline, each with a Ph.D. or the equivalent of six years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines.

    A full listing of finalists is available in the event program. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014 is funded jointly by Intel and the Intel Foundation with additional awards and support from dozens of other corporate, academic, governmental and science-focused organizations. This year, more than US$5 million was awarded.

    To learn more about Society for Science & the Public, visit, and follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter.

    To get the latest Intel education news, visit, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

    About Intel

    Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is a world leader in computing innovation. The company designs and builds the essential technologies that serve as the foundation for the world’s computing devices. As a leader in corporate responsibility and sustainability, Intel also manufactures the world’s first commercially available “conflict-free” microprocessors. Additional information about Intel is available at and, and about Intel’s conflict-free efforts at

    Intel and the Intel logo are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the United States and other countries.

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    Source: Business Wire

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