Cancer Research Wins Top Prize in Science Contest: Gala Honors 40 Finalists in Intel Science Talent Search

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WASHINGTON -- Nithin Tumma captains his high school's robotics team and plays tennis. But it's his work to understand the wily ways of cancer that has made him a champion. For figuring out how a protein helps cancer evolve and hide from the body's immune system, Tumma, 17, won first place in the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search. Tumma, of Fort Gratiot, Mich., received a $100,000 award from the Intel Foundation at a black-tie gala held March 13 in Washington, D.C.

The event honored this year's 40 finalists, who distinguished themselves from more than 1,800 entries. The budding scientists hailed from 16 states and split $630,000 in awards. The Intel Science Talent Search has been administered by Society for Science & the Public, which publishes Science News, since 1942.

"There are 40 individuals here who prove we still have the capability in this country to cultivate the next generation of innovators, thinkers, scientists and entrepreneurs," Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini told the students at the gala. "I'm keenly looking forward to watching you make wonderful things happen in the coming years."

Second place went to Andrey Sushko, 17, of Richland, Wash., who got a $75,000 award. He created a tiny motor, only 7 millimeters across, powered by the surface tension of water. A coating of water-repellent material made this unusual alternative form of energy possible.

Mimi Yen, 17, of Brooklyn, N.Y., won third place and $50,000 for identifying a gene that causes some worms to behave strangely. Males with a mutant form of this gene attach globs of mucus to each other's orifices, a behavior that's usually reserved for impregnating the hermaphrodites of the species.

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Fourth place and $40,000 went to David Ding, 18, of Albany, Calif., who studied a branch of mathematics called Cherednik algebras. Benjamin Van Doren, 18, of White Plains, N.Y., won fifth place and a $30,000 award for showing that birds migrating in autumn get their bearings during the morning and tend to fly into the wind. …