Indian-origin teens win $200,000 in scholarships for schizophrenia research
Shriya and Adhya Beesam, 16 won the prize at a competition in USA. Photograph: (Twitter)
Three Indian-origin teenagers, including identical twin sisters, in the US have bagged a total scholarship worth $200,000 in a science competition for their innovative research that will help doctors diagnose health problems including schizophrenia.
Shriya and Adhya Beesam, 16, who are 11th grade students in Plano, Texas shared the $100,000 grand prize in the 17th annual Siemens Math, Science and Technology Competition on Tuesday for their project titled, "Linked Neuro-Fuzzy Inference System: A Novel Approach to Schizophrenia Diagnosis".
Vineet Edupuganti, a senior at Oregon Episcopal School, won the top individual award worth $100,000 for developing an ingestible battery that could transform the way doctors diagnose and monitor health problems deep in the body.
Edupuganti's invention, titled "Development of a High-Performance Biodegradable Battery for Transient Electronics", which he calls a "high-performance biodegradable battery for transient electronics", was appreciated by the judges at the contest.
His work could simplify how medical practitioners diagnose conditions that affect internal organs, such as gastrointestinal disorders, that currently require complex imaging or invasive procedures to diagnose.
"These scholars are poised to transform the lives of millions around the globe. I cannot wait to see where their dedication and innovative thinking will lead them and the rest of us as well," David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation said.
In their research, the twins, developed a new approach to diagnose schizophrenia earlier in patients using both brain scans and psychiatric evaluations, the WFAA reported.
"All of the judges, including myself, were very impressed that high school students, even juniors and sophomores, were able to produce such advanced research and with an extremely sound command of the science," said lead judge Megan Leftwich, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the George Washington University.
Leftwich said the students looked at real problems and all tried to go a step further in their own journey and analysis.
"This was a very difficult group to have to choose a winner from," she added.
The Beesams lost their uncle to schizophrenia years ago. Their uncle was misdiagnosed for several years before eventually being diagnosed as schizophrenic. The twins say the late diagnosis and delay of care contributed to his suicide.
"People diagnosed with schizophrenia are fifty per cent more likely to commit or attempt suicide," Shriya said.
The Beesams say the loss of the uncle served as motivation during their research and work.
"It was amazing after we won when a mother came up to me and thanked us for our work because her son has schizophrenia and she's happy to see people talking about the disease," Adhya said.