Half Hollow Hills Trio Wins $100K Siemens Science Scholarship

Half Hollow Hills students, from left, Jiachen Lee, Jillian Parker and Arooba Ahmed, after winning the 2017 Siemens Competition.   Photo Courtesy of Half Hollow Hills School District

Half Hollow Hills students, from left, Jiachen Lee, Jillian Parker and Arooba Ahmed, after winning the 2017 Siemens Competition. Photo Courtesy of Half Hollow Hills School District

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

After months of research, reports and presentations, the 2017 Siemens Competition is finally over, and three students from the Half Hollow Hills School District earned the competition’s top prize of $100,000.

The team of High School East juniors Arooba Ahmed, 15, and Jiachen Lee, 16, along with Hills West junior Jillian Parker, 16, was one of six to present a research project before a panel of judges at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.

The results of the competition were announced Tuesday, and the three Half Hollow Hills juniors earned the top prize available for group presentations: $100,000 in scholarship money that will be split among them.

“Three months ago when we were sitting in the lab, achieving this level of the competition seemed like a distant dream,” Ahmed said. “We are beyond grateful and excited to have the opportunity to engage in this experience.”

The Siemens Competition, launched by the Siemens Foundation in 1999, provides high school students with the chance to vie for college scholarships by submitting individual or team research projects in the fields of math and science.

Ahmed, Lee and Parker worked together to study the role of the Coiled-Coil Domain Containing 11 (CCDC11) protein during the process of cell division, and discovered that the protein plays a previously unknown function in the midbody of dividing cells.

The trio’s project, entitled “The Cilium and Centrosome Associated Protein CCDC11 is Required for Cytokinesis via Midbody Recruitment of the ESCRT-III Membrane Scission Complex,” could help combat the effects of degenerative disease.

One of the Siemens Competition judges, Dr. Chadwick Hales, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, said, “Because of their extensive background research and well-executed set of experiments, Arooba, Jiachen and Jillian found a new function of the protein CCDC11 that could help us better understand complex genetic mutations that affect patients with a number of health issues, including cancer, neurological, and viral diseases.”

The three students began refining their presentation for the national finals just after they received news that they had reached that last stage of the competition, and it's clear that the months of preparation and hard work paid off.

"Please join the Half Hollow Hills Central School District in congratulating our young women scientists, Hills West's Jillian Parker and Hills East's Jiachen Lee and Arooba Ahmed, on winning the 2017 Siemens Foundation Competition and the $100,000 scholarship top prize," the district's Facebook page stated. "We are all so incredibly proud of you!"