Manual student places first at National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium


Jingjing Xiao works to remove a detergent from cancer cells so she can examine the RNA

Joey Demarco

On May 5th, Manual student JingJing Xiao (11) placed first in the Medicine and Health category at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (NJSHS).

Her paper, which focused on the ability of oligonucleotides to eliminate cancerous cells, was a continuation of a project that earned her second place at last year’s NJSHS competition.

Xiao worked at the James Graham Brown Cancer Research Center to expand synergenic drug treatment of two strands of leukemia and broke new ground in the field.

“It’s original. It hasn’t been done remotely. She designed a solution to cure two strands of lung cancer. She threw it all together and ended up with this home run,” Mr. Bob Baar (Chemistry) said.

Xiao’s solution effectively decreased the amount of dangerous radiation typically required to kill cancerous cells. “It was a lot safer,” said Mr. Baar. “It repaired cancerous cells. It turned them back into normal cells by re-writing their DNA.”

Her paper was one of 100 selected for the national competition, following her first-place finish at the state competition held at the University of Louisville.

Typically, her performance at the national level would include a fully-funded trip to the international symposium in England, but government funding for this year’s competition was cut.

The study is the result of relentless work by Xiao. “I put in many hundreds of hours,” she said. “I’ve been working on this for three years.”

Xiao also said she intends on continuing this work in the future. “A lot of people don’t understand treatments available. I would like to work so the general public better understands these treatments,” she said.

Her 1st place finish comes with a $12,000 undergraduate tuition scholarship, one which her teacher sponsor felt was well deserved.

“It started a major push to cancer treatment. It’s a big deal,” Mr. Baar said.

For more specific information on Xiao’s work, click here.