North Texas Daily

TAMS students excel in national competition

TAMS students excel in national competition

November 26
23:43 2012

Marlene Gonzalez / Senior Staff Writer

Eleven students in the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science program at UNT have been recognized in the 2012 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. TAMS fielded more winners than any other Texas school entered in the competition.

TAMS freshman Robert Tung and TAMS sophomore George Qi were named regional finalists for their work researching data on sexually transmitted diseases. Nine other students were named semifinalists in this year’s competition, which is open to high school students around the country.

TAMS Dean Richard Sinclair said there are only about seven universities in the nation with a similar program, and UNT is the only one in Texas.

Students are eligible to apply for both high school and college scholarships.

“The reason UNT seems to outpace every other school in Texas is because of the caliber of the students,” Sinclair said. “You have the best high school age students in the state of Texas here at TAMS.”

TAMS is a two-year program at UNT that allows high school juniors and seniors to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while working toward a high school diploma.

The Siemens Competition, funded by the Siemens Foundation and administered by the College Board, judges high school students’ achievements in math and science research. It gives students national recognition and awards college scholarships that range from $1,000 to $100,000, according to the competition’s website.

The student finalists said they communicated with Texas State math professor Qiang Zhao, their research mentor, through emails and phone calls as they finalized their project. They began in the summer and submitted their work in October.

Tung and Qi, along with a high school student from Austin, presented their work to a panel of 10 judges, displaying the project’s information on poster boards.

Qi said they studied clinical data on 155 women, who recorded sexual encounters in a pocket-sized diary. The students came up with an estimate of about how long it would take for a sexually active individual to catch an STD.

“We wanted something that would actually matter or help out in the world,” Tung said.

Their study provides a blueprint for other researchers to further investigate and explore, Qi said.

“Because in the real world you don’t know exactly when you would get infected with a disease, it kind of estimates it based on what you know,” Qi said. “So we just came up with new ways to get it to a more accurate estimate, and it’s mostly feasible for diseases.”

Each team member won a $1,000 scholarship, which they won’t receive until they enroll in college full-time.

James Duban, director of the Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships, said this competition demonstrates the intensive research students do on an undergraduate level. Duban said students use labs on campus to research their topic.

“These students have brought added recognition to themselves, to TAMS and to UNT through these distinctions,” Duban said. “The outcome is the next generation of America’s leading research scientists.”

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