According to the old stereotype, science geeks rarely take their eyes off their Bunsen burners or computers.
But for some students, the stereotype is laughable.
Just ask Ted Paranjothy, 17, who has won three competitions inside three weeks for his lab work.
When asked if he has ever been called a “science geek,” Paranjothy laughs. The Grade 12 student does his science research when he isn’t busy being class president at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg or playing on the football team.
His latest feat, winning the Biotech Challenge in Ottawa, which was announced by the National Research Council late last week, means he has received about $15,000 in prize money from all the competitions.
Last week, he won the International BioGENEius Challenge in Boston, making him the first Canadian to win this competition since the contest’s inception in 1994.
And before that, he won the regional competition that made him eligible for the Ottawa event.
A few years ago, Paranjothy began reading medical publications online after school. He was looking for anything that could potentially kill cancer cells.
Three months into his after-school hobby he read about a protein called apoptin that can induce cell suicide. Then, under the guidance of Marek Los, a professor at the University of Manitoba, Paranjothy isolated a fragment of apoptin that he says can selectively kill some cancer cells without harming healthy ones.
In addition to the money and honour of winning, Winnipeg’s Paranjothy is now on the radar of some of the world’s most prestigious schools. He was told Harvard and MIT would be pleased to have him as a student.
Despite the allure of the U.S., he says he wants to do research at the University of Manitoba, one of only five labs in the world working with the particular protein he’s interested in.