MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—A high-school student from Fort Worth, Texas, won top honors July 11 at the first annual Google Science Fair for her project on drug resistance in ovarian cancer. Shree Bose, 17, investigated the connection between an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and resistance to the chemotherapy drug cisplatin.
Bose inhibited the activity of AMPK to see how it affected the death of cancer cells. She found that inhibiting AMPK in cells produced two different reactions to cisplatin, depending on whether or not the cells were resistant to the drug. Inhibiting AMPK reduced cell death in regular cancer cells treated with cisplatin, but the inhibitor actually boosted the cancer-killing effects of cisplatin in cells that were resistant to the drug. "Since there's such a shift in what this inhibitor does, all our evidence suggests that there's some sort of shift in what the activity does," Bose said after being awarded the grand prize here at Google headquarters. "This tells us that this protein might be changing roles or it might be playing a role in cancer cells becoming resistant."
Bose attends Fort Worth Country Day School, where she will be a senior in the fall. But her project was carried out at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, where she found a mentor in Alakananda Basu, a professor of molecular biology and immunology there.
As the contest's grand prize winner, Bose will receive a $50,000 scholarship from Google, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and other prizes. She will also take home two Lego trophies (Lego was another partner in the event), one for the grand prize and one for winning her age group of 17–18 years old. The winners of the other age groups were Naomi Shah, 16, of Portland, Ore. (15–16 age group); and Lauren Hodge, 14, of York, Pa. (13–14 age group). Shah looked at the connection between airborne pollutants and respiratory disease, and Hodge tested the effects of various marinades on the formation of carcinogens in grilled chicken. Shah and Hodge will each receive $25,000 scholarships.
Bose says she became interested in cancer research after a death in the family. "Two summers ago, actually, my grandfather passed away from cancer," Bose said. "And after that—I had already known I wanted to do research, but I didn't know what field—and that kind of decided it for me. I knew I wanted to go into cancer research." Then, one day, she saw a link on the Google home page for the company's first online science fair, which ultimately drew some 7,500 entries from 91 countries. (Scientific American partnered in the event, and Editor in chief Mariette DiChristina served as a judge.) For Bose, a veteran of local science fairs, it seemed a good fit: "I thought, well, I love Google and I love science fairs, so maybe this could work for me."