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San Diego Teen Earns Top Prize at Google’s Science Fair

Canyon Crest Academy senior Eric Chen (far right) won this year's grand prize...

Credit: Google Science Fair

Above: Canyon Crest Academy senior Eric Chen (far right) won this year's grand prize at the Google Science Fair.

Not many high schoolers can say they're collaborating with university professors to patent and publish their own research, but Eric Chen can. And now, the Canyon Crest Academy senior from San Diego can tack "Grand Prize Winner, Google Science Fair" onto his college applications, too.

Chen took top honors at this year's Google Science Fair for his project, "Computer-aided Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Combat Flu Pandemic." Using computer models in conjunction with biological tests, he was able to identify a number of possible new drugs with strong flu-fighting potential.

Finding a one-size-fits-all flu vaccine has been a top priority for federal researchers for years. Google itself has also taken an interest in this vexing public health problem. Its Google Flu Trends tool aims to predict outbreaks by tracking what people search for online.

Chen's research instead focused on using computer models to hone in on antiviral compounds that he believes could also fight all forms of influenza, including deadly and pandemic strains.

"Due to the significance of my findings, a patent on my discovery has been filed through UCSD and a manuscript is being prepared," Chen wrote in his project's conclusion.

As grand prize winner, Chen took home $50,000 in scholarship money and a trip to the Galapagos courtesy of National Geographic.

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