Last week, WYSKettes Priyanka Wadgaonkar, Zainab Mahmood, and JiaWen Pei from George W. Hewlett High School, Hewlett, N.Y. won the team $100,000 grand prize in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, showing us all why STEM education is so important for young women and that yes, girls/women can work together.

The Siemens Competition, the premier research competition for high school students, is a leading supporter of STEM education in the United States. The three young women join a highly selective group of just 14 individual competitors and 14 teams previously named winners of the Siemens Competition.

The high school seniors will share a $100,000 scholarship for their project entitled The Isolation and Characterization of an Ozone Responsive Stress Related Protein (OZS) in Ceratopteris richardii. In layman’s terms… the girls found that plants with multiple copies of genes that help with ozone tolerance are more resistant to environmental impacts. Their findings have implications for effects from drought and pollution to salt and bacteria, potentially lessening crop losses that cost billions of dollars per year.

In a press release about the team’s findings, Dr. Joy Ward, associate professor and Wohlgemuth Faculty Scholar in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas shared, “This is among the finest independent research projects being conducted by students at the high school level in this country. These students exhibited remarkable levels of cooperation, dedication and passion to achieve such major biological findings.”

Watch out world, here they come!

Meet The Winners

Siemens Winners_2Priyanka Wadgaonkar, 16, parents’ work as a cell biologist and a gastroenterologist sparked her interest in science, as well as her aspiration to become an emergency room physician. She is a recipient of the George Eastman Young Leaders Award and chair of the Cabaret Night Business Committee. (left)

Zainab Mahmood, 17, is a member of the National Honor Society, a Euro Challenge Semifinalist, recipient of the United States Army Award, and the second-place winner of the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair. In her free time, she volunteers at the Franklin Early Childhood Center and plays Varsity Lacrosse. Zainab plans to pursue a career in engineering. (right)

JiaWen Pei, 17, has a longstanding interest in biomedical sciences and aspires to become a physician. Captain of her school’s fencing team, she is also a member of the National Honor Society, Foreign Language Honor Society, chorus and orchestra. (seated)