Jiayi Peng, a senior at Chappaqua’s Horace Greeley High, is one of four students named finalists in the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
They were chosen after presenting their original research to a panel of judges from Carnegie Mellon University. Now the four will present their work at the National Finals in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1-4.
At Carnegie Mellon, Peng won the individual category and a $3,000 scholarship for studying “critical avalanches of neural activity that are the physiological bases for actions, thoughts and emotions.”
According to a release: “Jiayi’s project, A Cellular Automaton Model for Critical Dynamics in Neuronal Networks, could help determine how distinct neurological mechanisms can differentiate a healthy brain from one with a neurological disorder such as epilepsy, autism or Alzheimer’s disease.”
Judge Dr. Markus Deserno, Associate Professor of Physics at Carnegie Mellon, gave the student major props: “Jiayi’s model utilizes a remarkably simply feedback mechanism that allows it to reach and maintain a critical state. Since critical avalanches are often missing from brains with disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and schizophrenia, Jiayi’s contribution also sheds new light onto these neurological conditions. Someday, her work might help us find a treatment for these ailments.”
Here’s more on Peng, who sounds like a remarkable student:
“Jiayi is a National Merit Semifinalist and has received Moody’s Math Challenge National Honorable Mention and the US Navy and Marine Corps Science Award. A pianist, Jiayi has won an award in the Golden Key Piano competition. Jiayi is actively involved in community service. As a tenth grader, she founded Kits4Kids, a club dedicated to raising money for children, especially girls, to continue their education. Jiayi plans to major in physics or mathematics and aspires to be a researcher or professor in one of these fields. She was mentored by Dr. John M. Beggs, Associate Professor of Biophysics, Indiana University.”
At the National Finals, the two top prizes will each be $100,000.
David Hamann of Yorktown High School was a regional finalist in the individual competition.
In the team competition, Vickram Gidwani of Horace Mann School in NYC and Daniel McQuaid of Ossining High School were regional finalists.