This is an article written by Aditi Patil that was originally published in The Thunderbird.

On December 5th, in Washington D.C., Arooba Ahmed, Jaichen Lee, and Jillian Parker were welcomed on the Siemens Foundation stage and awarded $100,000 in scholarships for winning first place in the Siemens Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Competition team category. A total of more than 1,800 projects were submitted to this year’s competition, and Half Hollow Hills is proud to say three of our very talented, very intelligent students took home the coveted 1st place award.

The girls, completely shocked and awestruck, were congratulated by Siemens Foundation’s head of STEM programs, Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, for their hard work on their research involving cell division that could help find treatments to cancers, viruses, and other diseases. When recalling the moment that their names were announced, Jillian Parker said, “I was so excited and so overwhelmed with emotions that I started crying.” She went on to say, “And then afterwards I realized, wow, I can’t believe we actually accomplished this.”

Jillian, Arooba, and Jiachen’s project, “The Cilium and Centrosome Associated Protein CCDC11 is Required for Cytokinesis via Midbody Recruitment of the ESCRT-III Membrane Scission Complex” consisted of discovering that when a particular protein is dramatically decreased in cells, cell division will not carry out properly which may have implications in different neurodegenerative diseases.

Siemens asked the girls about what inspired them to pursue this path of research. As a child, Arooba devoured programs on the National Geographic channel and constantly read nonfiction books; in school, her favorite subject was always science because of the “real world applications and the natural phenomena.” One day, she’d like to be a cardiologist or researcher and loves the idea of working with others. Jiachen has been fascinated by the way the world works since she was a young child and overwhelmed with “the infinite opportunities to fuel my curiosities and discover new things.” She’s particularly interested in molecular biology and the vital molecules composing life and their roles in the formation of diseases. Jillian is a member of her school’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Club, which she joined because of the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields and the encouragement and opportunities the club offers to young women. Jillian hopes through her exploration of the STEM field, she can become a role model to other young girls and encourage them to take interests in science or math as well.

“Winning this award in just their junior year, these girls are an inspiration to the entire HHH community.” They represent the endless opportunities there are for progress in science. The trio hopes to continue their vital research and one day see it applied in a grand level to save the lives of many people.

Photo courtesy of Evelyn Hockstein