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Students Capture Semifinalist Standing in Intel STS Competition

January 25, 2013

Intel Science Talent Search Nation's Most Prestigious Pre-College Science Competition

Kimberley Yu, Plano West Senior High School, and Ray Xu, Plano Senior High School, have captured semifinalist standing in the Intel STS (Science Talent Search) contest, the nation's most prestigious pre-college science competition.

The Intel STS recognizes 300 students and their schools as semifinalists each year to compete for $1.25 million in awards. From that select pool, 40 finalists are then invited to Washington, D,C., in March to participate in final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists and compete for the top award of $100,000.

Alumni of STS have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world's most coveted science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and National Medal of Science.

About Kimberley Yu's research

Kimberley YuKimberley conducted her project for Intel STS during the summer of 2012, as part of the Research Science Institute, a summer program hosted by MIT. She used bioinformatic tools to study the genetics of a brain structure called the habenula.

The habenula plays a key role in regulating several emotional, motor, and cognitive behaviors, and is associated with disorders such as depression. Kimberley sought to determine the genetic basis for variation in habenula volume. Using gene mapping methods, she located the region of the genome that determines habenula volume, and isolated 22 candidate genes within this region. Her findings contribute towards a genetic understanding of the habenula.

Kimberley and her brother Phillip were also just named Regional Finalists in the national Siemens Foundation Math, Science and Technology Competition for their research project about a fatal degenerative brain disease. Read more

About Ray Xu's Research

Ray XuTerahertz (300 GHz – 3 THz) is a unique portion of the electromagnetic spectrum; it lies between the microwave and infrared frequencies. Research in this area has been on the increase due to its potential application as a biologically-safe and non-ionizing replacement for X-Ray imaging. Other applications include diagnosis of health ailments through noninvasive rotational spectroscopy and seeing through fire or intense light.

Conventional precision terhaertz equipment are currently large, expensive and require cryogenic operating environment, conditions that only can be met in a dedicated research laboratory. Recent scientific research in terahertz has demonstrated a functional terahertz detector built on Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) that operates at room-temperature, the same technology used in microchips that are integral to computers and smart-phones. However, due to interference (i.e. black-body radiation) and the nature of CMOS technology, the signal quality of these new CMOS-based terahertz detectors are drastically worse than their conventional counterparts. On the other hand, CMOS-based detectors are cheaper, smaller, mass-producible, and energy-efficient, compared to their conventional counterparts.

To combine the best of both worlds, precision and convenience, a noise-reduction circuit (lock-in amplifier) is designed onto an existing terahertz detector array. The end result is a monolithic CMOS terahertz detector array capable of obtaining images that is less dependent on external circuitry and laboratory equipment. The chip was successfully fabricated in United Microelectronics Corporation's (UMC) 130 nano-meter CMOS process in July of 2012. This project was done under the supervision of Professor Kenneth Kyongyop O at the Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE) of the University of Texas at Dallas.

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