Seniors win honors in science competition

David Lim

Two students’ scientific research won semifinalist recognition in the 2012 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology on Oct. 19.

David Lim ’13, Kenneth Kim ’13 and teammate Alex Wong of Troy High School were three of 322 students to be named semifinalists in this high school competition, which is administered by the College Board and funded by the Siemens Foundation, an organization that funds STEM education initiatives nationwide.

Their names, along with the other semifinalists and the 93 regional finalists, were also listed in the USA Today’s Oct. 25 issue.

Lim, Kim, and Wong wrote a 25-page formal research paper using data they had collected on the fruit fly while participating in an eight-week program at UCLA this summer under Dr. John Olson, an academic coordinator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“We got a lot of freedom over our own research, in setting our own schedules, designing our experiment, and compiling a paper at the end.”

The paper, titled “Using RNAi-mediated post-transcriptional gene silencing in Drosophila to identify genes involved in hematopoiesis,” was about “certain genes and the effect they had on the Drosophila fly blood development and blood system,” Kim said. “Because the Drosophila has similar genetic disorders to humans, they have been studied extensively as a model organism to gain insight into human diseases as well.”

Kim, Lim and Wong used a technique called RNA interference to shut down certain genes in the blood systems of Drosophila larvae, Lim said. In their paper, they analyzed visible blood defects in larvae caused by the genes being turned off.

The team’s set schedule for their internship, UCLA Undergraduate Research Consortium in Functional Genomics, required them to work from 10 a.m. to four p.m. in the lab two days a week, and they spent extra time in the lab whenever they could, Lim said.

“We got a lot of freedom over our own research, in setting our own schedules, designing our experiment, and compiling a paper at the end,” Lim said.

After the internship ended, the team spent the next two months deciding what data to analyze in their paper.

“September was tough since Kenneth, Alex and I are rather geographically spread out,” Lim said.

Kim described the writing process in the last two weeks before the competition deadline as “hyperdrive mode.”

“We wrote little bits but when it came down to the wire, [Kim] and I pulled an all-nighter at my house while Alex was in touch through Skype,” Lim said. “[AP Chemistry] labs prepared us well for this massive amount of write-up and comprehensible analysis.”

Lim worked at the same lab the summer after his sophomore year and was also named a semifinalist in last year’s Siemens Competition as well for his work at the lab with Julie Ko ’12 and Walnut High School graduate Dorothy Yim.

So when Lim heard that Kim was looking for an internship, he suggested the same lab, and they decided early on in the internship to enter the competition, Kim said.