Science Fair winners from left

Saanich students lead Island to Canada Wide Science Fair

Saanich's Nathan Kuehne, a Glenlyon Norfolk student, earned top prize at the Vancouver Island Science Fair

Saanich scientist Nathan Kuehne’s mission to make life easier for those suffering from a rare condition earned him the top prize at the Vancouver Island Science Fair last week.

The 17-year-old Grade 11 student at Glenlyon Norfolk School is now taking his project, a home-diagnostic for the rare condition – officially known as a Phenylalanine Self-Diagnostic Test for Phenylketonuria (PKU) Patients – to compete in the Canada Wide Science Fair in Fredericton, NB, from May 10 to 16. It’s a return to the Canada Wide Science Fair for Kuehne, who earned a gold medal and three other awards there last year, when he presented a Supramolecular-Enhanced Fluorescence for Early Cancer Detection.

“The idea for last year’s project was a home-test to diagnose tumour-based cancer,” said Kuehne, who lives near Cadboro Bay. “This year’s project was going to be based off last year’s project, to further develop the urine test for tumour based cancers,” he said. “The goal was to be able to place a urine sample into a tester and judge if you had cancer or not.”

As Kuehne worked on it he ran into some challenges. When he tried it with phenylalanine, it worked better, he said. “Once I was able to confirm the same research was working for PKU, I discovered there’s a need for that type of test.”

Phenylketonuria is a rare, inherited genetic disorder that affects about one in 12,000 to 15,000 babies born in North America. Managing PKU requires ongoing analysis of blood phenylalanine, a naturally occurring amino acid that people with PKU fail to process. It builds up and causes health problems, including neurologic symptoms.

The condition is managed through blood monitoring, and in 2013 the National PKU Alliance issued a challenge for an at-home test, unbeknownst to Kuehne, who began creating something similar. NPKUA’s challenge has since closed, but Kuehne is in contact with NPKUA’s head scientist about the next step in bringing the phenylalanine monitor to life.

“PKU would be diagnosed at birth, so this test would be used to monitor the level of phenylalanine throughout the person’s life after diagnosis,” said Erin Dallin, co-head of science at GNS who has helped Kuehne the past three years. “The idea is that it could be used daily, or as directed by a physician to ensure that the diet is being adequately adhered to.”

In addition to winning the 2015 Island Science Fair overall award, Kuehne was in Vancouver last week where he finished second at the 2015 Sanofi Biogenius B.C. competition, which focuses on science research projects in the area of biotechnology.

“GNS has provided a huge amount of support for my science fair projects, and I’m grateful to the University of Victoria chemistry department,” Kuehne said. “It’s good to get the challenge outside of school work, I enjoy it.”

Kuehne is one of the hardest-working students Dallin has had the pleasure of working with, she said.

“This project has been entirely driven by him, he’s devoted much of his spare time (including the summer) to achieve at this level.”

The work is at a university level, added Dallin, and has the potential for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, a rarity for a high school student.

“I feel very fortunate that I have been able to be involved in this research and the progression I have seen in Nathan’s abilities. I have seen him ask questions and design experiments that many undergraduate students would find challenging,” she said.

Saanich students excel at Island Science Fair

While the overall winner was Nathan Kuehne (Glenlyon-Norfolk) for his Phenylalanine Self-Diagnostic Test, the Saanich duo of  Andrea Chan (St. Michaels University School) and Matt Treble (Lambrick Park secondary) won second for their project, Prosthetic Hand Grip Using 3D Printable Compounds.

Lambrick’s Austin Sawyer Lambrick Park was third for his low-cost solutions to increase the longevity of wood railroad ties.

“It was pretty simple, something overlooked, you just wrap a zap tag around the ends of the ties. It comforts them so they can’t expand and crack when they freeze.”

Fourth place went to Alexander Stead and David Weaver (both Glenlyon-Nofolk) for Iron Nanoparticle Based In-Situ Anti-Coagulant Delivery.

In fifth was Grade 8 Janet Dawson of Gordon Head middle school (who is coached by Austin Sawyer) for accurately predicting within five minutes where the sun will set from the top of Mount Douglas (PKOLS).

All seven students advance to the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) in New Brunswick in May.  There they will join 500 students from across the country for a week of competition and science education.

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

Just Posted

Four charges approved in Saanich hit and run that left woman in coma

‘This was a significant crash that caused serious injuries,’ say police

Crown alleges resentment of ex-wife drove Oak Bay father to kill his daughters

Patrick Weir alleged in his closing arguments that Andrew Berry is responsible for the deaths of his daughters

Tour de Rock kicks off on Saturday morning

The 22nd annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock ride will take two weeks to complete

One-man Frankenstein show coming to Craigdarroch Castle

The Halloween special will kick off at the beginning of October

MISSING: Victoria man Cameron Johnston

VicPD are looking for a missing 36-year-old man

PHOTOS: Young protesters in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

Many demonstaers were kids and teens who skipped school to take part

Former B.C. lifeguard gets house arrest for possession of child porn

Cees Vanderniet of Grand Forks will serve six months of house arrest, then two years’ probation

How to react to Trudeau’s racist photos? With humility, B.C. prof says

‘We are now treating racism as a crime that you cannot recover from’

‘I’d do it again,’ says B.C. man who swam naked, drunk in Toronto shark tank

David Weaver, of Nelson, was drunk when he went to Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto on Oct. 12 2018

VIDEO: Fire destroys Williams Lake strip club targeted by past arson attempts

Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge destroyed by fire, as well as New World Tea and Coffee House

Trudeau seeks meeting with Singh to apologize for blackface, brownface photos

‘I will be apologizing to him personally as a racialized Canadian,’ Trudeau said Friday

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

Charges stayed against Alberta RCMP officer in alleged off-duty Whistler assault

Const. Vernon Hagen instead completed an alternative measures program

Most Read