Sigma Xi Awards $6,000 to Students at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

May 15, 2015

Intel ISEF Stage
Photo: Sigma Xi sponsored the Special Award for Team Science at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Four teams received the awards on May 14.

A new method of silk sheath production. Synthesizing an artificial biological leaf capable of evolving oxygen.  Modifying algae for enhanced hydrogen and biofuel production. Synthesizing nanofibers for membrane water purification. 

These are the pre-college research projects that Sigma Xi selected for its Team Science Awards at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. More than 20 Sigma Xi members volunteered to review 286 team projects May 12-13 to find the best demonstrations of interdisciplinary research and team science. They selected the Team Science Award winners in the life science and physical science categories. In total, Sigma Xi awarded $6,000 to four teams on May 14.

Intel ISEF Judges

Photo: These are some of the Sigma Xi members who volunteered to select the winners of the Society’s Team Science Award. From left to right: Jamie Vernon, Yang Yu, Stephanie Tristram-Nagle, Kenneth Lau, Jason Lee, Prakash Thakur, Kai Baumann, Gloria Silva, and Ronghong Lin.    

“It's breathtaking to appreciate the incredible sweep of the students' work, but what surprised me was how congenial it is to work with colleagues that I met only through Sigma Xi and the judging process,” said Craig Everhart, a member of the Sigma Xi Carnegie Mellon University Chapter.

Intel ISEF, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest pre-college science competition. It includes nearly 1,700 high school students from more than 75 countries, regions, and territories. Each year, the finalists who make it to Intel ISEF showcase their independent research and compete for nearly $4 million in awards. 

Students are able to compete as a finalist after winning a top prize from a SSP-affiliated fair. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair provides finalists with a global stage on which to present their research. Each year, more than 600 projects receive awards and prizes for their groundbreaking work.

"Sigma Xi sponsors this event as part of our mission to enhance the health of the research enterprise for the purpose of improving the human condition. By supporting these young scientists, we are contributing to vibrant research in the future,” said Jamie Vernon, Sigma Xi’s director of science communications and publications.

Sigma Xi’s journal for pre-college research, Chronicle of The New Researcher, was represented at the fair. The students and their parents spoke with Sigma Xi members about this unique opportunity to publish their results prior to heading off to college. Pre-college researchers may submit manuscripts to

All the participants shared in the benefits of this event. Sigma Xi judges were gratified by the experience.

“When I signed for the Intel ISEF I did not know it was going to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional life,” said Gloria Silva, assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a member of the Sigma Xi chapter there.

This year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair was funded jointly by Intel and the Intel Foundation with additional awards and support from dozens of corporate, academic, governmental and science-focused organizations. Upcoming Intel ISEF events will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California. 

The 2015 Sigma Xi Special Award winners are:

First Life Science Award of $2,000

A New Method of Silk Sheath Production Developed from Observation of Spinning Behavior of Silkworms

Thananon Hiranwanichchakorn, 16, Damrongratsongkroh, Muang, Thailand
Nattapong Chueasiritaworn, 15, Damrongratsongkroh, Muang, Thailand
Sutthiluk Rakdee, 15, Damrongratsongkroh, Muang, Thailand

First Physical Science Award of $2,000

Synthesizing an Artificial Biological Leaf Capable of Evolving Oxygen via Photosynthesis

Wyatt Martin Pontius, 17, Loudoun Academy of Science, Sterling, Virginia
Liam Alexander Wallace, 17, Loudoun Academy of Science, Sterling, Virginia

Second Life Science Award of $1,000

Enhanced Hydrogen and Third-Generation Biofuel Production from Modified Algae

Anoop Vemulapalli, 17, Plano West Senior High School, Plano, Texas
Wenjia Dara Li, 17, Plano West Senior High School, Plano, Texas

Second Physical Science Award of $1,000

Synthesis of Electrospun Nanosilver-Functionalized Nylon 6 Nanofibres for Membrane Water Purification

Yi Zhao Tan, 17, Hwa Chong Institution, Singapore, Singapore
Zheng Theng Lim, 17, Hwa Chong Institution, Singapore, Singapore
Benjamin Kye Jyn Tan, 16, Hwa Chong Institution, Singapore, Singapore

The Sigma Xi judges were:

Kurt Ahrens, Membership-at-large
Carey Balaban, University of Pittsburgh Chapter
Kai Baumann, Carnegie Mellon University Chapter
Zhengxin Cai, University of Pittsburgh Chapter
Charles Dobbs, Alcoa Chapter
Craig Everhart, Carnegie Mellon University Chapter
Ellen Jantzen, Bryn Mawr College Chapter
Joan Lakoski, University of Pittsburgh Chapter
Kenneth Lau, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chapter
Jason Lee, Alcoa Chapter
Ronghong Lin, Syracuse Chapter
Daniel Lopresti, Lehigh University Chapter
Ellen Margolis, Smith College Chapter
Harvey Nathanson, Membership-at-large
Mary Provance-Bowley, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Chapter
Fayez Safadi, Temple University Chapter
Gloria Silva, Carnegie Mellon University Chapter
Xiaoyu Sun, Membership-at-large
Prakash Thakur, Membership-at-large
Stephanie Tristram-Nagle, Carnegie Mellon University Chapter
Jamie Vernon, Membership-at-large
Linda Winkler, Wilkes University Chapter
Jennifer Woodward, University of Pittsburgh Chapter
Yang Yu, Membership-at-large
Leming Zhou, Membership-at-large

UPDATE: The categories of the Sigma Xi Team Science Awards were corrected on 5/18/15. 

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety