Daniel Zheng wins SIAM's first prize at INTEL-ISEF

Daniel Zheng, an eleventh grader at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minnesota was awarded first prize in SIAM's Special Awards Organizations at the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) held in Indianapolis, Indiana, May 7 – 12, 2006.

Established in 2006, the SIAM award recognizes the projects that explore the ties between mathematics and applications that may not easily fit within a formal engineering, science, or mathematical discipline. Projects that include non-trivial mathematical analysis in the context of an engineering or science problem are considered. Examples of qualifying projects include mathematical analysis of a problem in science or engineering; projects that bridge the gap between math and an application; mathematical methods applied to solving a problem in science or engineering, optimization, scientific computing; or numerical analysis.

Zheng received the prize in recognition of his project titled "Mathematical Modeling of Smoking Effect on Down Syndrome." His entry, which examined the long term effects of smoking on the incidence of Down Syndrome, impressed Kelly Black, a judge and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Union College of Schenectady, New York.

"Mr. Zheng was able to clearly describe the mathematical model and explain the motivations as to how certain terms in the equations had been simplified…his project made use of a wide range of skills and techniques," says Black.

"I was partly inspired to select this topic because of my father," says Zheng. "He has done some research in the field of birth defects. I was also motivated to look into this topic by curiosity. Not a lot is known about maternal-age-related defects and I thought that with mathematics I could provide some insight into the problem."

The eleventh grader plans to write and submit an article on his project for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Chang-Jiang (C.J.) Zheng, a physician specializing in preventative medicine, is thrilled with his son's interests in applied math and epidemiology.

"Dan is my free assistant. He's been helping me in the office for years. He started doing some data entry, then he and his friend started downloading data from hospital labs for me, and then he started modeling some of my research interests. I know some math but not at the level he is doing," Dr. Zheng laughs. "I need this young guy to help me but so far I've been unable to pay him."

Zheng learned algebra before he started fourth grade. He has attended the University of Minnesota Talent Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP) for five years. UMTYMP is a program that allows high school and middle school students to take advanced mathematics courses. Through the program, Zheng completed courses in single and multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and introductory differential geometry. He hopes to pursue a college major in computational biology or double major in mathematics and biology at MIT, Caltech or Brown.

"Daniel is an extraordinary student, passionate about all areas of learning, although most especially about math and science. He is one of those rare students who pushes himself well beyond the assigned material to satisfy his own curiosity," says Tom Fones, Zheng's teacher and debate coach of Saint Paul Academy. "Daniel is really capable of pursuing virtually any profession that he's interested in. I could very easily see him as a researcher, professor, or an engineer."

Mary Hill, Zheng's college counselor concurs with Fones.

"I'm impressed by Daniel's intellectual versatility as much as his depth of knowledge and research skills in math and science. He excels in history, debate, English, and Chinese. He is becoming a fine painter as well. With deep-seated curiosity about the world around him, Daniel finds joy in learning through debate, conversation and reading in all fields," she says.

Zheng is also a member of the Saint Paul Academy and Summit School's Math Team, Debate Team, Science Bowl, Quiz Bowl, and Science Olympiad. According to his teacher and coach Bill Boulger, Zheng brings a broad and deep background to the Math Team.

"He is able to assume several key roles on the Math Team: introducing younger students to ideas they have not studied, volunteering for the most difficult events during competitions, and leading problem-solving exercises on the team events. Dan fills all of these roles with ease, poise, and graciousness," says Boulger.

Tina Barsky, a Biology teacher at St. Paul Academy notes Zheng's joy and enthusiasm for all things scientific.

"He is wonderfully open and upbeat without an ounce of arrogance -- very refreshing," she says.

Aside from math and science, Zheng enjoys painting, playing Dance Dance Revolution, reading science fiction, fantasy and war history, as well as watching SG-1, Atlantis, and Star Trek.

SIAM's S.A.O. honorable mention prize was awarded at INTEL-ISEF to Gabriel Joel Mendoza and Frederic Rojas of El Paso, Texas for their project titled, "Stochastic/Deterministic Analysis of Arboviral Transovarial Transmission in Culicidae." Their entry focused on the spread of West Nile virus.

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SIAM, headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, is an international community of over 10,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians, computer scientists, and other scientists and engineers. The Society advances these fields through a series of premier journals and a wide selection of conferences. With over 500 academic and corporate institutional members, SIAM serves the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and prestigious peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics. SIAM supports regional sections and student chapters that provide many opportunities for students. One of the primary goals of SIAM is to increase the pipeline of students into applied math studies and careers. More information about SIAM is available at www.siam.org.


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