From the winning model: a denatured P53 protien at 13 °C. Credit: Katelynn James and Meghan Hill

Two graduates of SFI’s Project GUTS program have won the 2014-2015 Supercomputing Challenge. The mission of New Mexico’s Supercomputing Challenge is “to teach teams of middle and high schools students how to use powerful computers to analyze, model, and solve real-world problems.” 

High school seniors Katelynn James and Meghan Hill, both from Monte del Sol Charter School in Santa Fe, won first place in this year's (25th annual) Supercomputing Challenge for their project titled “Using a Concentrated Heat System to Shock the P53 Protein to Direct Cancer Cells into Apoptosis.” 

The team designed two NetLogo computer models to determine: 1) how a mutated P53 protein is molecularly altered by heat, and 2) whether nanobots could apply concentrated heat to tumor cells to effectively treat lung cancer. Nanotechnology for such applications is still hypothetical. 

The team simulated the treatment under four temperature variables, and found 13℃ to be an optimal temperature for triggering cancer cell death without damaging healthy cells. “We found that, at 13 degrees (Celsius), there was a 94 percent chance the protein would re-nature and that 64 percent of the time all of the cancer cells would be killed within one kilogram of blood within the lungs,” Hill said.

The team acknowledged Paige Prescott, manager of SFI’s Growing Up Thinking Scientifically program, for her mentorship. Both students participated in the GUTS education program as middle schoolers, where they learned about computer modeling and complex systems in an after school setting.

The team also acknowledged their sponsor and biology teacher, Rhonda Ward, whose father was a victim of lung cancer.

Read more about the Supercomputing Challenge

Read more about this year's winners on (April 26, 2015)

Read more about this year's winners on (April 23, 2015)