Woodmere high school student Priyanka Wadgaonkar wins Siemens team competition

She is part of three-member team awarded $100,000.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Priyanka Wadgaonkar, an Indian American high school student from Woodmere, New York, was part of a three-person team that won first prize at the Siemens Competition here.

Wadgaonkar – along with her teammates Zainab Mahmood and JiaWen Pei, also from New York – won in the category of Math, Science, and Technology. The competition, held at George Washington University, awarded the trio prize money of $100,000 in scholarship money.

Winning first place also means that they will get to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on February 5.

Their project studied the effects of ozone resistance in plants, and how damage to the ozone layer affects fauna. The girls were able to identify a plant gene that, according to them, could make plants far more resistant to ozone, which could have huge implications for important crops. The project was singled out by several judges as being one of the most impressive projects in the competition due to the level of research and science involved.
Wadgaonkar is inspired by her parents, who are a gastroenterologist and a cell biologist. She says she hopes to be an emergency room physician.

In addition to Wadgaonkar, two other desi students came away from the Siemens competition victorious.

Massachusetts high-schooler Kavish Gandhi won second place along with his partner, Noah Golowich. The duo did a project based on the Ramsey Theory, which is a close relative of Game Theory and is used with large system structures. Second place means the pair won $50,000, which they divide between themselves.

Texas-based high school junior Shriya Das placed in sixth for her project on nanotechnology. She and her partner, Alyssa Chen, won $10,000 between the two of them.

In total, the Siemens Foundation gave out $500,000 to this year’s winners in the form of scholarship grants.

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