Three Taiwanese students received second prizes of US$1,500 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair’s (ISEF) award ceremony in the US city of Pittsburgh on Friday.
Su Tzu-hsuan (蘇子軒) and Shang Kuang-ming (商廣明), both 17-year-olds from Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, won second prize in the medicine and health sciences category for their insights into how the rare fungi Antrodia cinnamomea — only found in Taiwan — fights breast cancer cells.
Hsieh Tying-Shiuan (謝庭軒), 17, from Taipei First Girls High School, was awarded a second prize in the animal sciences division for identifying a gene that controls eye development in fruit flies.
Antrodia cinnamomea is used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine and is sometimes used as an alternative cancer treatment.
According to their research, Su and Shang found that extracts from three-month-old fungi specimens were the most effective in inhibiting the development of breast cancer cells.
In addition to their ISEF prizes, Su and Shang won two special awards a day earlier, including third prize from Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, and fourth prize from the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, making them the biggest winners from the Taiwan team.
This is the second time that the two students have represented Taiwan at the fair.
The US science fair is one of the world’s largest pre-college science competitions and attracts approximately 7 million high-school entrants around the globe annually.
Only 1,500 people, however, are chosen for the final round after elimination contests at local, regional and national level.
The fair hands out US$3 million in scholarships and awards per year.