Students at Mass Academy of Math and Science Garner Awards at International Science Competition

Research Targets Cancer Cells, Food Additive, and Computer Science
May 30, 2014

Three students at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI took their already-prize-winning research to the next level earlier this month, earning awards at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles.

Jesse Michel, a junior from Hopkinton, was awarded second place; Akshayaa Chittibabu, a junior from Westford, took third place; and Gregory Konar, a senior from Marlborough, earned a scholarship at ISEF, which recognizes innovative research by high school students, worldwide. The three students earned a spot to compete at ISEF by winning at other science competitions, including the Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair at WPI, held in March, and the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair, held this month at MIT.

At ISEF, Michel won $1,500 for his research involving a model to explore a theoretical number system using base 1.5. This model has extensions that can be used in computer science applications, which he will pursue next year. He was taken aback by the award. "I didn’t expect it. I was doing what I like, which is math, and it ended up being appreciated," he said.

Chittibabu was awarded $1,000 for research on the food additive carrageenan and its effects on blastemal cell growth and development.

Konar garnered a $15,000 scholarship for research involving cancer cells. His goal was to design a better way to visualize the differentiation of these cells. He developed a method for using a protein receptor that fluoresced, allowing cancer cells to be identified and located, which could help determine a cancer's progression, including metastasis.

Michael Barney, director of the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI, said an integral part of the Academy's curriculum is having students develop strong research skills. The Academy's class titled STEM1 (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), for example, teaches students the many steps involved in conducting research and how to think like scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

"This is what 21st Century learning is all about," Barney said. "Research is a vital skill that students use as they continue on with their education. At the Massachusetts Academy for Math and Science, we fully prepare students to meet this challenge."

About Mass Academy of Math and Science at WPI

Mass Academy is a public, co-educational school of excellence program which enrolls about 100 academically accelerated 11th and 12th graders. The school emphasizes math and science within a comprehensive, interactive academic program. The rigor of the junior year classes exceeds high school honors and AP, emphasizing depth over breadth, engaging students in project based learning and more than 1,100 hours of instruction. Seniors complete a full year of college, enrolling in classes at WPI, a nationally ranked university, thus making the Academy the only public school in Massachusetts whose students attend a private university full-time as seniors in high school. The Academy is a collaborative effort among the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the high schools of Massachusetts. For more information visit