Sophomore Snikitha Banda Awarded Top Prizes at Science Competitions

Sophomore Snikitha Banda Awarded Top Prizes at Science Competitions

Sophomore Snikitha Banda was named a Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2021 Finalist after being awarded the Grand Prize - Best of Championship Award at the 2021 Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Engineering Fair for her project “Style Transfer Augmentation: Cancer Subtype Classification using Genetic Status in Histopathology Images.” She will be competing at ISEF alongside her peers from around the world next month.

Last January, Snikitha came across a YouTube video titled “Top 10 Causes of Death,” where she learned that clinicians’ inability to accurately predict and classify cancer types and subtypes is the leading upstream cause of cancer deaths worldwide. After researching further, she learned that the current method of MRI scanning for cancer diagnosis does not effectively differentiate between malignant and benign tumors and cannot accurately identify all types of cancers.

Snikitha’s project consisted of two main goals: translating genetic biomarkers into histopathology images to derive more diagnostic information and constructing a neural network on these images to predict patients’ cancer types and subtypes. The system she developed is a pragmatic tool with industrial viability, which could readily replace the current method of diagnosing cancer types.

Her passion for STEM has motivated her to enroll in medical and programming college-level courses since middle school, which helped her gain background knowledge for the project. “Understanding the scientific jargon and discovering real-world applicability was an amazing experience for me,“ Snikitha said. “I’m humbled to have the opportunity to present the research at the science fairs and share my findings from the past year with the research community.”

Snikitha has been a participant in Notre Dame’s Independent Science Research Program for the past two years, which provides students with an opportunity to experience the rigors and rewards of higher-level scientific research while still in high school. She has also been working under the mentorship of a professor and postdoctoral scholar at Stanford’s Laboratory of Quantitative Imaging and Artificial Intelligence (QIAI). Their research paper has been submitted and is under review at the IEEE TMI Journal.

Besides being a Regeneron ISEF Finalist, the sophomore earned the 1st Category Award at the Synopsys Championship and has since entered her project in the California Science & Engineering Fair. She has also been named a finalist at the Amgen Bay Area BioGENEius Challenge, where she will be competing for the top three prizes later this month.

Snikitha hopes to further expand her translational research and continue to contribute to the medical community.