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My Path From the BioGENEius Challenge to the White House Science Fair

March 23, 2015
My name is Natalie Ng, winner of the 2013 International BioGENEius Challenge, and I am excited and honored to be exhibiting at the 2015 White House Science Fair today.

I can clearly remember the humble start of my extraordinary journey into scientific research. I was a first grader, attempting to build a geyser in my kitchen. Equipped with a one-liter bottle of club soda, clay, and an unstoppable willingness to try and try again, I unleashed my inner geologist and managed to mimic a geyser in its full glory through a stream of club soda from the countertop to the ceiling.

Since then, I have indulged my diverse interests in science through numerous projects, such as testing the water quality of local rivers and building biosensors to detect Salmonella. Then, in high school, I discovered my passion for computational biology, a field that seeks to understand complex biological systems through modeling and data mining. I fell in love with this field because of its potential to rapidly and drastically advance the forefront of biotechnology.

I applied this passion for computational biology to my BioGENEius research project. Essentially, my project created a diagnostic tool for breast cancer. Through two microRNA prognostic signatures, my research enables doctors to determine which patients are likely to develop metastasis and are therefore good candidates for chemotherapy. This advances the field of precision medicine by allowing doctors to make customized treatment decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Participating in the BioGENEius competition was a life-changing experience.

The diverse backgrounds of the judges, from leading scientists to patent lawyers to undergraduate alumni, compelled us to think in new, exciting ways. I will always remember the conversations I had with the other 14 finalists. I doubt I will ever find another group of students who are so dedicated to bettering the world through biotechnology. We were all filled with pride and honor at the International BioGENEius finals; it represented the culmination of years of hard work and served as a validation that our research has real, tangible applications to the world.

Since winning the International BioGENEius Challenge in 2013, I have continued pursuing my passion for science and innovation. I am currently a freshman at Stanford University, where I am inspired every day to find creative solutions through interdisciplinary approaches. At Stanford, I am a member of Design for America and Stanford Students in Biodesign and look forward to continuing research as part of a biophysics lab.

It is an honor and a privilege to represent the BioGENEius Challenge and the Biotechnology Institute at the White House Science Fair. I can’t wait to present my research at a national stage to members of the government, professional scientists, and private sector representatives. More importantly, I hope to share my takeaway from the BioGENEius experience, that through persistence, creativity, and perhaps a bit of good fortune, we can all find elegant solutions to real-world problems.