Davidson Fellows - 2009

2009 Davidson Fellow Laureates

$50,000 Scholarship Recipients


    Melody Lindsay

    Age: 17

    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Category: Music

    A 17-year-old young woman from Honolulu, Hawaii, Melody Lindsay believes we celebrate mankind's best achievements through music. In her portfolio, "Harping Around the World: Cultural Leadership for the 21st Century," she draws on her experience as a harpist to connect with audiences. She is particularly interested in inspiring young people to discover and pursue their own passion for classical music. Melody has performed on and serves as a Cultural Ambassador for NPR’s “From the Top” and was a Focus on Youth Performer for the ninth and 10th World Harp Congresses.


    Nicole Rhodes

    Age: 17


    Category: Literature

    A 17-year-old young woman from Vancouver, Washington, Nicole Rhodes created a portfolio, The Dictionary of Distance, to explore different facets of distance in writing. She considers the space between the author and the work, the distance between a piece’s narrator and characters, and the space separating characters and other elements to determine how distance alters memory. Through this examination, Nicole is able to analyze the writing process, the writer’s perspective and the final written product. Her portfolio includes a variety of forms, styles and subjects, united in this investigation.


    Eric Sherman

    Age: 15

    Ephrata, Pennsylvania

    Category: Science

    A 15-year-old young man from Ephrata, Pennsylvania, Eric Sherman developed a technique that allows scientists to identify potential bone marrow donors in one percent of the time and for six percent of the cost of traditional techniques. Using polymerase chain reaction and cycle sequencing, he sequenced the genes that determine a person’s Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type. Eric then wrote a computer program to analyze the DNA sequence and return possible HLA matches. This technique can potentially be used to identify donors for other transplantable organs, such as kidney, liver and lung, creating the opportunity to save hundreds of lives and millions of dollars each year.

    2009 Davidson Fellows

    $25,000 Scholarship Recipients


    Erika DeBenedictis

    Age: 17

    New Mexico

    Category: Science

    A 17-year-old young woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Erika DeBenedictis researched methods of identifying low-energy paths for spacecraft. By carefully planning the route a spacecraft will take, it is possible to reduce the amount of fuel needed by utilizing the natural gravity and motion of planets in the solar system. Erika developed an itinerary-based algorithm to reach specified destinations, which streamlines the process of finding low-energy paths. Such orbits are particularly useful for heavy spacecraft, in which self-propulsion is especially difficult. Use of low-energy paths would allow these spacecraft to reach previously impractical destinations.


    Nolan Kamitaki

    Age: 17

    Hilo, Hawaii

    Category: Science

    A 17-year-old young man from Hilo, Hawaii, Nolan Kamitaki designed a computer simulation to determine how viral characteristics and medical supply distribution patterns affect an epidemic’s spread across a social network. Starting with a particle-based simulation to analyze basic interaction rates, he moved to a small world network, modeling an epidemic’s spread across a population. Nolan’s findings showed that children, due to their greater degree of social connection, are most useful for prevention and are the most effective recipients of medical processes.


    Jason Karelis

    Age: 17

    East Setauket,
    New York

    Category: Science 

    A 17-year-old young man from East Setauket, New York, Jason Karelis studied an enzyme called MenD that plays a role in the biosynthesis of a lipid called menaquinone in Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium that causes staph infections. Menaquinone is an electron carrier crucial to S. aureus. Jason constructed a mutant strain of S. aureus with a disrupted MenD gene and observed its growth on media only with menaquinone added, evidence that MenD is vital for S. aureus. Staph infections are a major public health concern and Jason’s work provides a platform for a new class of antibiotics.


    Amy Levine

    Age: 17

    North Potomac, Maryland

    Category: Literature

    A 17-year-old young woman from North Potomac, Maryland, Amy Levine examines the shades of gray between black and white in her literature collection, "Grayscale Unraveled." She demonstrates how life choices that have the greatest impact initially do not appear to be choices at all, but have the potential to be the most transformative. Amy’s portfolio explores the small yet important events that determine who we are and how we live, while breaking down the black and white decisions people make to show the grayscale that describes the world.


    Yael Dana Neugut

    Age: 17

    Teaneck, New Jersey

    Category: Science

    A 17-year-old young woman from Teaneck, New Jersey, Yael Dana Neugut studied arsenic metabolism and renal function in an arsenic-exposed population in Bangladesh. She found that the association between urinary excretion of arsenic metabolites and creatinine is likely due to their shared metabolic pathway, and that creatine may be an effective way to prevent and treat long-term exposure to arsenic. More than 100 million people worldwide are chronically exposed to high levels of arsenic and are at risk of serious diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. A randomized trial of creatine supplementation is currently underway in Bangladesh.


    Allison Ross

    Age:  16

    Mercer Island, Washington

    Category: Outside the Box

    A 16-year-old young woman from Mercer Island, Washington, Allison Ross created a portfolio, African and Western Heroes’ Journeys in Literature: An Exemplification. Against the backdrop of August Wilson’s fiction and the constructs of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Cycle, she explores the relationship between classical Western and African hero mythologies. Allison investigates the derivations, common motives and cultural differences between the two traditions, offering original narratives and critical analysis. Through this work, Allison hopes that others will share her enthusiasm for exploring themes that unite our heritages.


    Anshul Samar

    Age:  15

    Cupertino, California

    Category: Outside the Box

    A 15-year-old young man from Cupertino, California, Anshul Samar seeks to make learning a side effect of fun with his project, "Igniting Interest in Chemistry with Elementeo Chemistry Card Game." In Elementeo, players battle with their element army, activate reactions, create compounds, and conquer opponents using black holes and slippery bases. Anshul hopes that by introducing young people to chemistry in a fun and interactive manner, they will discover a passion for science and pursue it throughout their lives.


    Roman Stolyarov

    Age:  17

    Addison, Texas

    Category:  Science

    A 17-year-old young man from Addison, Texas, Roman Stolyarov designed and produced an omnidirectional dielectric mirror for visible light using a unique one-step fabrication process. The mirror is composed of 12 ultrathin alternating layers of two chalcogenide glasses, which were deposited by thermal evaporation onto a transparent silicon dioxide glass substrate. Simulations show that doubling the number of alternating layers would produce near perfect reflectivity, a phenomenon impossible for silvered mirrors, given their inherent losses in the visible spectrum. Roman’s process will allow for rapid manufacturing of wavelength specific mirrors with applications in radar filtration and fiber technologies.


    Duolin (Doreen) Xu

    Age:  16

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    Category:  Philosophy

    A 16-year-old young woman from Indianapolis, Indiana, Doreen Xu explores the foundation of evil in her philosophy portfolio, The Roots of Evil. She delves into the human psyche to examine several distinct sources of evil, concluding that all human evil is caused by frustrated human desire. Doreen explores this newly defined dimension of evil with an enlightened perspective, fostering a new method of viewing evil. She hopes this will allow evil to be more effectively combated, leading to a more progressive and harmonious global society.


    Sarina Zhang

    Age:  13

    San Diego, California

    Category:  Music

    A 13-year-old young woman from San Diego, California, Sarina Zhang strives to show the beauty and emotional value of classical music in her portfolio, "Reaching out to the World with the Magic of Music." Through performance, she strives to connect with her audience, moving them with the simple truth of classical music. A pianist and cellist attending The Juilliard Pre-College Division, she has been featured on NPR’s “From the Top,” performed at Carnegie Hall and toured internationally with the San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra. 

    $10,000 Scholarship Recipients


    Connie Kim-Sheng

    Age:  17

    La Crescenta, California

    Category:  Music

    A 17-year-old young woman from La Crescenta, California, Connie Kim-Sheng seeks to convey the insights of classical composers in her portfolio, "Inspired by Beauty: Piano Masterworks." Her performance of pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, and Ginastera provide musical texts that illuminate the span of human feeling and experience, demonstrating a multitude of complex harmonies. Connie has performed on NPR’s “From the Top,” and for audiences in Sydney, Australia; Calgary, Canada and Los Angeles. Through her music, Connie hopes to encourage greater respect for cooperation and pluralism in society.


    Prithwis Mukhopadhyay

    Age:  16

    Woodbury, Minnesota

    Category:  Science

    A 16-year-old young man from Woodbury, Minnesota, Prithwis Mukhopadhyay researched the molecular mechanism by which carrageenan may induce pre-malignant cell transformation. Carrageenan is a FDA-approved food additive found in dairy products, processed meats, dog food, infant formula and cosmetics. Using mammary epithelial cells, he found carrageenan reduced Arylsulfatase B (ASB) activity and increased sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAG), especially chondroitin sulfate, which induced cell migration and pre-malignant transformation. Prithwis’ work shows how carrageenan influences breast cancer cell proliferation and migration.


    Aditya Palepu

    Age:  17

    Oakton, Virginia

    Category: Technology

    A 17-year-old young man from Oakton, Virginia, Aditya Palepu developed a pattern classification algorithm that extracts linear and Gaussian relationships from raw data using a bottom-up approach. Given any data set, all possible models are generated, iteratively weeded down, and refined to better fit the data. This algorithm is effective on benchmark Iris data and synthetic distributions, and was designed so the model library can be expanded to more data sets. Aditya’s work has applications in facial/object recognition, data mining, trend analysis, and was used to classify a Washington, D.C. crime database revealing the clustering of criminal activity.


    Rahul Pandey

    Age:  17

    Rochester, Michigan

    Category: Science

    A 17-year-old young man from Rochester, Michigan, Rahul Pandey created a negative index refraction lens made of metamaterials. Metamaterials have the unique property to bend electromagnetic waves of a certain frequency backward, so an image is possible on the opposite side of a lens. He modeled the energy flow of negative index materials in terms of lens geometry, refractive index, focal length and source distance, finding a linear relationship with n = -1. Rahul’s work has applications in stealth technology, antenna elements, radio frequency signal switching, and lenses that do not adhere to the diffraction limit.


    Fiona Wood

    Age:  17

    North Haven,

    Category:  Science

    A 17-year-old young woman from North Haven, Connecticut, Fiona Wood explored the brain’s ability to perceive and measure interval time using late-spiking (LS) neurons. She created the first biophysically realistic computational model of an LS neuron, and used it to construct neural networks that can accurately and realistically encode time. For all animals, an ability to perceive and measure time is essential for a wide variety of tasks. Fiona's work can lead to better understanding of brain diseases in which interval time encoding is impaired, such as Parkinson’s, Huntington's and schizophrenia.


    Darren Zhu

    Age:  17

    Winston-Salem, North Carolina

    Category: Science

    A 17-year-old young man from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Darren Zhu worked to develop more efficient data storage technologies by exploring nanofabrication methods for spintronics. Spintronics, or spin-based electronics, are inherently more powerful than electronics, as they exploit electron spin and subsequently are more sensitive than integrated circuit technology. He incorporated molecular self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) into spintronics and performed surface analyses to find that isocyanide-based SAMs are a viable candidate for implementation in nanoscale spintronics fabrication. Darren’s work has strong applications in nanotechnology, specifically in the field of nanolithography.

    2009 Davidson Fellows Press Kit
    Davidson Fellows Reception at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in September 2009
    Video - 2009 Davidson Fellows Reception (YouTube)
    National News Release

    Davidson Fellows' Positive Contributions to Society
    National Statistics: Why our Nation Needs to Educate our Gifted and Talented Youth

    2009 News Articles
    2009 Brochure
    For more information, visit the Fellows Press Room. 

    2009 Honorable Mentions

    Miss Abigail Brennan
    Fort Lauderdale, Florida
    Metafiction: Myth and Modernity

    Miss Ilana Fogelson
    Salt Lake City, Utah

    Miss Claire Groden
    Solon, Ohio
    The X Factor

    Miss Mary Helen Meosky
    East Amherst, New York
    Beyond the Stethoscope: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Patients and Doctors

    Miss Heather Van Wallendael
    Gold Hill, North Carolina
    Truth in the Trashcans: The Transcendence of Reality and Its Implications on Perception

    Miss Simone Porter
    Seattle, Washington
    The Gift of Giving

    Miss Aishwarya Venkataraman
    Long Beach, California
    From Musical Harmony to World Harmony

    Outside the Box
    Miss Sarah Juster
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Genocide in International Law: Arguments for Restrictive Definition and Interpertation


    Mr. Isaac Anderson
    Evergreen, Colorado

    Mr. Matthew Bauerle
    Fenton, Michigan
    Using PSpice Simulations to Analyze the Performance of a Cuk Converter with Various IGBT Models

    Mr. Kevin Chen
    Brooklyn, New York
    The Effect of Circularly Polarized Light on the Excitation of Quantum Dots Buried at Various Depths

    Mr. Kshitij Desai
    Sugar Land, Texas
    Designing Adeno-Associated Virus Type 2 Nanoparticles as Multivalent Contrast Agents for Diagnostic Imaging

    Mr. Richik Neogi
    Portland, Oregon
    Energy Conversion with TiO2 Nano-Particles and Melanin Under UV Light

    Mr. Patrick Pan
    Houston, Texas
    Saving the San Jacinto Monument - Local and Global Preservation of History

    Mr. Adam Strobel
    Annapolis, Maryland
    Endless Energy: A Plan for a Three Way Renewable Energy Generating System

    Mr. Sujay Tyle
    Pittsford, New York
    A Novel Method to Determine the Mechanism Behind DNA-DNA interactions using Optical Tweezers

    Mr. Sam Wu
    Cary, North Carolina
    Rational Bioengineering of LadA Monooxygenase in Polyethylene Degradation Mechanism

    Miss Jeongmin Shin
    Irvine, California
    Study of Effect of TiO2 Nanoparticles on Human Cervical Carcinoma in vitro


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