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The 2017 BioGENEius competition award ceremony held at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI). The International BioGENEius Challenge is a competition for high school students that recognizes original research in biotechnology. State winners of the BioGENEius competition can travel on to compete at the regional, national, and international levels. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)
Gov. John Carney (center) and John Koh (left), interim director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, congratulate the 2017 Celebration of Science award winners and BioGENEius award finalists.

BioGENEius Challenge

Photo by Evan Krape

Gov. Carney announces Delaware BioGENEius winner at DBI

The Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) hosted Gov. John Carney in announcing Sohan Shah as the winner of the 2017 Delaware BioGENEius Challenge on Thursday, April 27.

Shah’s project examined the effects of the p lastic additive, bisphenol S, which has replaced the controversial bisphenol A, on nerve cell activity.

Ashish Mahuli received an honorable mention for his project in which he built a neural network that would analyze images of skin moles in public databases to recognize cancerous from non-cancerous moles.  

Also present were finalists Cassidy Poon, who investigated butterfly wing structure and its role in hydrophobicity, and Meera Garg, who studied antidepressant molecular structures with implications in safer dosing.

Shah will represent Delaware at the International BioGENEius Challenge held in conjunction with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Convention in June in San Diego, California. The conference is attended by about 16,000 researchers and business professionals from around the world.

Before announcing the winner, Carney said that “this has been an interesting and exciting week for science and technology in Delaware,” noting the partnership between the University of Delaware, state government and private sector to open the innovation space on the DuPont Experimental Station site.

Turning to the students, Carney noted that the “future of science and technology in Delaware lies in biotechnology,” and he said that he hopes the students pursue their ambitions and careers in Delaware.

In opening the ceremony, John Koh, interim director of DBI and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UD, noted that this was the seventh annual Delaware BioGENEius Challenge.

DBI volunteers travel to the county science fairs in the state to evaluate projects, which is “one of our favorite things to do,” Koh said, while thanking the individuals who organize these events.

While BioGENEius highlights individual projects, Koh noted that science is a collaborative endeavor.

A Celebration of Science award was given to Alexis Babb and Pooja Kaji for their team project evaluating the potential of different starch sources to support bioethanol production.

Rose Lansbury was presented the student-selected award for the most inspiring teacher and project mentor.

Koh stressed the importance of teachers helping and motivating BioGENEius participants. He noted that many UD and DBI faculty got their start by being challenged or motivated by a particular science teacher and mentor early in their careers.

Lansbury thanked DBI stating that the institute “has been very good to me as a teacher,” and also thanked her students, saying, “They’re the best.” She cited their creativity and diligence.

At the end of the ceremony, Helen Gieske, the organizer of the Sussex County Science Fair, surprised Koh with a plaque recognizing DBI on behalf of efforts to support Sussex County science fairs and programs like Sussex Science Night.

The program concluded with students and parents taking photos with Carney, touring DBI’s facilities and enjoying UDairy Creamery ice cream.

About the Delaware BioGENEius Challenge

The BioGENEius Challenge is an opportunity for high school students to compete on an international stage with some of the brightest scientific minds in the world. The Delaware BioGENEius Challenge is coordinated by DBI as part of its efforts to promote STEM education and training in the state in line with UD’s increasing emphasis on community engagement. The International BioGENEius Challenge is coordinated by the non-profit Biotechnology Institute, whose mission is to promote biotechnology and its applications in healthcare, sustainability and the environment.

Local Delaware students in grades 9-12 can compete in the Delaware BioGENEius Challenge, which is held in conjunction with three local science fairs – the New Castle County Science Expo, the Kent County Science Fair, and the Sussex County Science Fair. 

Local support for the 2017 Delaware BioGENEius Challenge was provided by AstraZeneca, W. L. Gore and Associates, Fraunhofer USA, and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

About the Delaware Biotechnology Institute

The Delaware Biotechnology Institute is a partnership among government, academia and industry to help establish the First State as a center of excellence in biotechnology and the life sciences. 

DBI promotes research, education and technology transfer for biotechnology applications to the benefit of the environment, agriculture and human health.

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