Maya Ratnam doesn't have any trouble explaining her project for presentation in the Siemens Foundation competition which leads to potential scholarships for high school students in science and technology.
She does understand, however, that some people have trouble understanding it.
The title of her presentation is "The Direct Action of Rapamycin on Skin Fibroblasts in Pro-fibrotic Through the Activation of TGF-B/Smad3 Signaling."
The Southview High School senior displays a small smile of awareness when others express a lack of comprehension.
She said the end result of her research and what the presentation is about is that Rapamycin, an experimental drug, may be useful in the treatment of systemic sclerosis, also known as scleroderma, when combined with other drugs.
Although the subject and the research are a mystery to many, Ms. Ratnam said she grew up in a household of scientists and has often worked as a volunteer in local labs.
It's something she naturally gravitated to, and research is something she enjoys.
"Even when I was about 2 years old, I kept saying I wanted to be a doctor," she said.
"That was even before my mother went to medical school and I was convinced she was copying from me," Ms. Ratnam said with a laugh.
Her father, Manohar, is a microbiologist, and her mother, Shobha, is a physician specializing in nephrology.
The work has resulted in her being one of only five regional finalists going to the University of Notre Dame to compete for a chance at the finals in New York next month. There are six regional finals, each of which will send a winner to New York.
Another Southview student, Marie Hu, was named a semi-finalist in the competition.
The overall winner of the annual competition is awarded a $100,000 scholarship.
"I'm just really excited that I got to be a regional finalist," Ms. Ratnam said before leaving for the Notre Dame competition in South Bend, Ind.
It's not the first time she's been aware of this level of competition, because her brother Vivek, who is studying economics at Princeton University, went to the regional competition at Notre Dame last year.
After she finished practicing her presentation to her classmates, Ms. Ratnam acknowledged she was getting a little nervous about the presentation at Notre Dame, but said she had also made the presentation to a group of graduate students and others and was well prepared.
However, she didn't advance at Notre Dame.
Dave McMurray, principal at Southview, said that he had never seen her without a smile and a group of friends at school.
"She takes academics seriously, but there's no pretension," he said.
"She just appears to be a happy young lady."
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