Regional Winners Move on to Final Phase of Competition: National Finals in Washington, D.C.
Sriharshita Musunuri (Mill Creek, WA) Wins Top Individual Honor.
The Winning Individual for Region One is Sriharshita Musunuri, a senior from the Henry M. Jackson High School, in Mill Creek, WA, won the individual category and a $3,000 scholarship for her project titled, “Computational and Experimental Design of MIP Nanoparticles: A Novel Theranostic Solution to Detect and Neutralize Endotoxins.”
Sriharshita’s project addresses a difficult challenge faced in U.S. hospitals every day: gram-negative bacteria that causes sepsis which can cause organ failure in patients, and is the leading cause of death in US hospitals. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are harmful biomolecules found on the surface of gram-negative bacteria and are responsible for over 50% of sepsis cases. Shriharshita designed a new polymer nanoparticle that captures the harmful LPS bacterial endotoxins and could be used to treat and diagnose the bacterial infection.
“Sriharshita’s research leads to faster diagnostic testing in clinical settings that could reduce patient deaths from sepsis,” says Dr. Brittany Needham, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech. “She approached this problem in a far more comprehensive way than others have and her method was particularly impressive. She figured out a way not only to detect this life-threatening bacteria, she also found a way to help prevent it.”
Past efforts to detect and extract LPS effectively have been hampered by high costs or incompatibility with human body fluids. Sriharshita’s research could make it easier to detect the presence of LPS and prevent the resulting endotoxic shock syndrome that can lead to sepsis, multiple organ failure, and death.
Sriharshita is also the founder of a non-profit organization that raises sepsis awareness called InflammAid. She is also a Davidson Fellow Laureate, a 2-time Intel ISEF finalist, winning Best-of-Category in Physical Energy and the Innovation Exploration Award for her work on thermoelectrics.
Sriharshita’s mentor is Christopher Lausted at the Institute for Systems Biology.
This year, for the first time, a new pricing structure will ensure that national finalists will receive a minimum of $25,000, according to Siemens.