Siemens names Ko smifinalist for gene study

By Joyce Kim

Julie Ko ’12, along with teammate Ritika Dutta of Troy High School, was named a semi-finalist in the 2010 Siemens Competition in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, a high school competition administered by the College Board and funded by the Siemens Foundation.

Individuals or teams of two or three members conducted research and submitted papers based on their findings.

A total of 1,372 papers on a variety of different topics including mathematics, engineering and biological and physical sciences were submitted and of those, 312 were named semifinalists, and 94 were named regional finalists.

While attending the University of California, Los Angeles Undergraduate Research Consortium in Functional Genomics program during the summer, Ko was asked to join Dutta in submitting a report to the competition.

“I figured it was a good opportunity, so I did,” Ko said.

Because Ko and Dutta had learned about the basics of fly genetics during their studies at UCLA, they decided to conduct their own research on Drosophila melanogaster, also known as the fruit fly.

Pinpointing the location and time of gene expression, and identifying the functions of genes during brain development became the focus of the 18-page research paper Ko and Dutta submitted to the competition..

In their executive summary, they wrote, “Because many human genes are conserved in the Drosophila genome, information about the functionality of certain developmental genes in Drosophila can shed light on how these genes act within the human genome.”

“We weren’t really expecting much out of our paper since we didn’t know how well it compared to other entries, so we were pretty surprised when we made semifinalists,” Ko said. “Dr. John Olson, our mentor at UCLA, and Yanni Vourgorakis ’90, upper school science teacher, helped a lot by looking over the report and giving some really helpful feedback.”

Each submission was evaluated based on creativity, field knowledge, comprehensiveness, interpretation, literature review, scientific importance, future work, clarity of expression, presentation and additionally for team projects and clear use of teamwork.

The format of the paper required for submission was similar to those found in published papers.

Although only regional finalists are considered in the next round of the competition, semifinalists were awarded with myriad prizes, such as a certificate and an Apple TV.Next summer Ko plans to look for an internship at a laboratory or attend summer programs.

Next summer Ko plans to look for an internship at a laboratory, or attend a summer programs.

“If I do more research, I’ll probably enter the competition again,” she said.

More information about the Siemens Competition can be found at and