Two Midland Herbert Henry Dow High School seniors tied for third place in the nation's most prestigious science competition for high school students

  • Feb 19, 2018
  • Paul Hunt

Brandon Zhu and Daniel Zhang, both of Midland, MI, were awarded a $25,000 scholarship at the finals of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. They were among four teams to win $25,000 prizes.

The Dow High students made it to the finals after winning a regional phase of the competition (and a $6,000 scholarship) at the University of Notre Dame in November 2017.

The two initially were reluctant to enter the Siemens Competition — and waited until almost the last minute — but were encouraged to enter during their summer internships at Michigan State University's STEM center on St. Andrews Road in Midland, also known as MSU-St. Andrews.

“We were a little reluctant,” Daniel said. “We decided to do the medical field platform because there would be tangible results that could be applied to humans in the future.

“We turned it in with only six minutes to spare.”

They were mentored at MSU-St. Andrews by MSU Chemistry alumnus and Dow researcher Dr. Patrick Smith. MSU-St. Andrews is run by MSU Chemistry Professor and Senior Associate Vice President for Research & Graduate Studies Paul Hunt. The center is funded by grants from the Herbert & Grace Dow Foundation, the Strosacker Foundation, and the Gerstacker Foundation.

Brandon and Daniel worked together on “Release of Active Pharmaceuticals Using Capped Hyperbranched Polyesters.”

Brandon and Daniel’s project developed a method for releasing drugs at a controlled rate into the body, which could increase the effectiveness of many pharmaceuticals.

Brandon grew up surrounded by STEM, and becoming a scientist always seemed natural to him. He remembers as a child listening to his father talk about his latest research and thinking that someday he would do the same. Brandon is particularly fascinated by chemistry and thinks there is so much to learn it cannot possibly become boring.

For as long as he can remember, Daniel has had a passion for STEM subjects, ranging from chemistry to biology to math to computer science. He enjoys the challenge and feels that there’s always something new he can learn.