The MdBio Foundation, a non-profit that provides STEM education and workforce development to underserved communities, today announced that Katy Wnuk-Fink – a senior from Laurel who attends Reservoir High School – was named winner of the 2018 Maryland BioGENEius Challenge, the premier competition for high school students that recognizes outstanding original research in biotechnology for healthcare, sustainability, and the environment. As the Maryland BioGENEius finalist, Wnuk-Fink will represent the state in the International BioGENEius Challenge at the BIO International Convention in Boston in June.
“With a mission of engaging students to explore and excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), MdBio Foundation is honored to give exceptional high school students the opportunity to present their work to international audiences,” said Brian Gaines, CEO of the MdBio Foundation. “Our industry judges were so impressed by the quality of research being done by Maryland students for the BioGENEius Challenge, and we are proud to have Katy represent Maryland in Boston.”
Wnuk-Fink’s winning project was entitled “Optimizing Influenza Genome Sequencing with Magnetic Beads for DNA Size Selection.” Her project aimed to show that viral sequencing is an important component in the field of vaccine development because it enables researchers to classify clinical samples and determine what strains are prevalent and should potentially be used in the next round of vaccinations. Wnuk-Fink’s project sought to optimize the viral sequencing process by altering individual steps of the overall procedure to be more efficient and accurate, as well as create a solid, successful protocol for size selection using magnetic beads that can be applied to a wide range of viruses and other samples.
Runners up in the 2018 state competition included two Centennial High School students, Junior Sayak Maity and Junior Jocelyn Mathew. Maity, who earned second place, explored “Cell Migratory Mode Classification Using Artificial Neural Networks: A New Paradigm for Early Detection of Cancer and Anticancer Drug Discovery.” The third place project from Mathew involved “Analysis of CD4+ T cell Neoantigens in the Panc02 Tumor Model.”
As the Maryland winner, Wnuk-Fink receives an all expenses paid trip to compete at the International BioGENEius Challenge at the BIO International Convention, taking place June 3-6 at the Boston Convention Center. While there, Wnuk-Fink will have the opportunity to engage with leading companies, scientists and innovators currently transforming the scientific landscape.