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Student on a path to find cancer cure

WHS sophomore Prithwis Mukhopadhyay conducted 1,000 hours of research for his project at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center at the University of Illinois -Chicago. Submitted photo

Researchers are slowly taking steps towards solving the mystery of cancer. One youthful scientist, Prithwis Mukhopadhyay, a tenth grade student at Woodbury High School, has joined the fight.

Mukhopadhyay will be presenting his award-winning science fair project, which outlines the cancerous effects a food additive has, at the Intel International Science Engineering Fair from May 10-15 in Reno, Nev.

"It's the first ever type of project that actually gives a step by step physiological process of how this food additive can lead to cancer whether than just stating it can lead to cancer," he said. "It can lead to a new strategy for treatment for cancer."

Mukhopadhyay got a ticket to the ISEF after competing against 500 projects during the Twin Cities Science and Engineering Fair on Feb. 28 at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse and receiving three prestigious awards.

ISEF is the world's largest international pre-college science competition judged by doctoral level scientists.

In addition to the ISEF, Mukhopadhyay has also been selected as one of six papers to be competing at the Minnesota Science Academy's Tri-State Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at the Crowne Plaza in St. Paul. Additionally, Mukhopadhyay will be presenting his paper to several scientists at 3M.

Mukhopadhyay spent 1,000 hours on his project at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center located at the University of Illinois-Chicago, since he would have access to the numerous cells needed to conduct his experiments and make his conclusions.

"I showed that there's this food additive, Carrageenan, that we eat every day is linked to transformative cancer cells," he said. "I was able to conclude that Carrageenan increased cell migration which would increase the spreading of cancer."

Mukhopadhyay said one interesting aspect of this conclusion is that the United States Food and Drug Administration has deemed this additive safe, despite the fact that other scientists have proven otherwise.

"I showed in my project that it's not safe," he said.

Mukhopadhyay landed on this topic for his research after reading through various science and research papers and learning of similar discoveries.

"It's just building off other papers and coming up with my own," he said.

But Mukhopadhyay also has a more personal interest in the subject matter also.

"I did have an interest in it before that because two of my relatives died of cancer, so I wanted to research it," he said.

Mukhopadhyay is no stranger to science. He has participated in the ISEF previously as well as a Discovering Channel-sponsored competition.

Mukhopadhyay said he wants to pursue science in the future whether it be in computer science or research because its such a rich and important field.

"I love science it's my favorite subject next to math," he said. "I like figuring out something that nobody has actually figured out and discovering something new -- how everything works is based on science."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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