Polygence blog / Student Spotlights

Award Winners for the 10th Symposium of Rising Scholars

2 minute read

On March 23rd, Polygence hosted its 10th Symposium of Rising Scholars, where Polygence students share their research with experts and their peers. All of our participants worked incredibly hard to develop and present their own unique research project and it was amazing to see the diversity of projects. The Keynote Speaker for this Symposium was Kelvin Doe, a self-taught engineer from Sierra Leone who founded the Kelvin Doe Foundation with a mission to provide creative spaces to nurture communities, ignite a culture of innovation, and inspire civic engagement. Kelvin has been awarded a Presidential Gold Medal (2013) and the MTV EMA Generation Change Award (2019), and gave a great speech to kick off our Symposium.

We wanted to especially recognize our Symposium Award Winners; the 8 student presentations that wowed our judges, the attendees, and the Polygence team. All awards, with the exception of the “Most Popular Presentation” and “Innovator” awards, are chosen based on the judges’ scores.

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First Place Live Talk

Winner: Jacob Su 

Topic: Artificial intelligence

Based on judges’ scores, Jacob’s live talk on “Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence: a Philosophical Perspective Through the Lens of Motivation and Volition” earned him the first place award! Jacob explored what qualities make AI seem human-like by defining concepts like consciousness, motivation and volition, and explaining how those concepts relate to one another. Jacob then explained how those concepts can already be observed in current AI technologies. Overall, Jacob’s enthusiasm and clear passion for the topic really shined through in his presentation!

Second Place Live Talk

Winner: Sudisha Kumar 

Topic: Design and social sciences

Sudisha’s talk, “Re-imagining San Francisco's Pier 70,” focuses on how best to make use of an old WWII shipbuilding site that is now essentially unused. Sudisha’s proposal includes in-depth research on local context, community sentiment, historical relevance, sustainable green building practices, and social needs of San Francisco and the Bay Area, and connects them to a design that is appropriate and relevant to Pier 70. For Sudisha’s project, she also wrote a paper that resembles a written research report with a significant visual component, including 3 plan diagrams and an interior view render of the proposed design.

Third Place Live Talk

Winner: Pranay Ranjan 

Topic: Artificial intelligence and Technology

Pranay’s inspiration for his presentation, “Evaluation of Leading Perception Algorithms for Autonomous Vehicles in Harsh Weather Conditions,” started with seeing videos on TikTok about autonomous vehicles and wondering why there weren’t any where he lived in Canada. It turns out that autonomous vehicles aren’t well equipped to handle the harsh weather conditions found in places like Canada, but a potentially very impactful use of autonomous vehicles could be to drive in extreme weather. For his project, Pranay conducted a deep dive into the hardware and computing that are obscured by the severe weather conditions around the world. He also investigated the impact of the different state-of-the-art sensors and systems in current self-driving cars such as lidar, GPS, camera, radar and more.

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Top Live Elevator Pitch

Winner: Chinmayee Yerraguntla

Topic: Social sciences and politics

Chinmayee’s pitch, “The Effect of National Stance on Reproductive Rights on the Inclusion of Child Rights in Legislative Framework,” won the top live elevator pitch, which is a shorter presentation than the live talk categories above. Chinmayee began her project in late 2022 around the time that the US overturned Roe v Wade, and she started to explore how a country's stance on women's reproductive rights may influence child protection laws. Chinmayee found that most research works thus far look only at either international child laws or countries' reproductive laws. Chinmayee’s project bridged the two topics by looking at domestic policies and how they coincide with international regulations. 

Top Async Talk

Winner: Reine Lantin

Topic: Public health

Asynchronous talks were pre-recorded presentations sent to us prior to the Spring 2024 Symposium and were shared during the live event. Reine’s talk,”The Impact of COVID-19 on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Tuberculosis in the Philippines in a Health Care Provision and Population-Centric Context,” explored how the COVID-19 pandemic had far-reaching consequences on the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis (TB). Reine focuses primarily on these issues in the context of the Philippines, which has the world’s fourth-largest incidence of TB. The Philippines was one of the first nations to create a TB adaptation plan to cope with the challenges of the pandemic, and these treatment adaptations have led to improvements in the continuity of TB care in the Philippines in comparison to before the pandemic. Reine’s work reviews and discusses how lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines have shaped the current TB care continuum from diagnosis to treatment.  

Top Async Elevator Pitch

Winner: Devika Menon 

Topic: Neuroscience and computer science

Devika’s pitch “Intrinsic Excitability of Neurons in Alzheimer's Disease” explains the science behind the disease using easy to understand metaphors. She also explained her project work, which involved her mentor providing two datasets of neural recordings, the first from a control group of mice and the second from mice that are exposed to Alzheimer's Disease. Devika's project was to write source code to probe both data sets and extract a large set of features from the action potentials of hippocampal neurons in both groups of mice. Her end goal was to check whether there are any differences to be reported in the intrinsic properties of hippocampal neurons between control and AD cases in the dataset.

Polygence Scholars Are Also Passionate About

Winner: Ray McLean 

Topic: Psychology and neuroscience

This award was given to the presenter who both invited the most guests to attend their presentation and had the most guests in the audience! Ray’s presentation was “Causes and Psychological Implications of Childhood Trauma on the Adult Brain,” and the aim of his project was to analyze types of traumas in children and the various ways it affects brain composition and neurological pathways. When mood regulation pathways malfunction, how do depressive symptoms develop and affect overall wellbeing? Ray also discusses the importance of trauma-informed treatment and the treatments currently available for victims of mental health disorders. He’s passionate about psychology and strongly believes in the importance of addressing mental health disorders.

Innovator Award

Winner: Gautam Vegesna 

Topic: History 

The winner of this award was chosen by the Polygence team as a project that blew us away with its creativity! We were amazed by Gautam’s project, “Istanbul 1700: An Immersive 3D Tour of the Historic Turkish Peninsula.” In his presentation, Gautam gave a tour of a 3D Ottoman Istanbul that he created, featuring various buildings with political, administrative, and cultural significance. Gautam created this map by using Blender V 3.4 and antique 2D maps of the region, and then translated them to 3D. We were impressed by what Gautam was able to create and how the map served as a lens into a specific historical period for a city that has undergone historical changes in power and leadership.

If you want to do your own research project and present at the Fall 2024 Symposium, you can apply for our mentorship program here! You’ll be able to work on a topic and project outcome that appeals to you, all while working on your own timeline with a research program mentor who’s an expert in your research topic.