Hickman senior is national finalist in science competition

Monday, November 4, 2013 | 7:45 p.m. CST; updated 10:41 p.m. CST, Monday, November 4, 2013

COLUMBIA — Hickman High School senior Mingu Kim was named a national finalist Sunday in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

Kim and his partner, Aaron Argyres, of Clayton, won the $6,000 team scholarship at the competition, which includes high school students from across the country. For their project, they engineered a material for use in bone repair.

Their discovery showed that it's possible to take cells from the mouth and use them in the same patient for bone repair, said Ali Khademhosseini, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, in a news release from the Siemens Foundation.

Argyres and Kim met at a research program at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., during the summer.

"We both had a really strong interest in stem cell research and how we can improve clinical therapy using bioengineering," Kim said in a phone interview.

With that question in mind, they worked on their project for about 400 to 500 hours over the summer. They spent many hours doing analysis inside and outside the lab.

Kim hopes that their discovery will lead to health benefits aside from bone repair.

"We are constantly wondering how to make therapy easier and cheaper by using bioengineering," he said.

During his sophomore year of high school, Kim was mentored by Carmen Chicone, a professor in MU's Department of Mathematics. Kim said the college environment exposed him to different types of scientific research, including stem cells. His biology and physics teachers at Hickman also helped him on his way to the competition.

The next stop for Kim and Argyres is Washington where they will present their project in the final round of the competition. The stakes are bigger this time — the two top scholarship prizes are $100,000.

"We are going to work on our PowerPoint, read a lot and get things finalized," Kim said. "It's an honor that we are even going."

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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