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Mill Creek Student Wins Siemens Scholarship For Her Research On Sepsis

photo courtesy of Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology
Sriharshita Musunuri created a tiny synthetic particle that could be used to detect a toxin that can cause sepsis

A high school senior from Mill Creek has won a prestigious $25,000 dollar scholarship in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. Sriharshita Musunuri’s research focuses on sepsis, which is one of the leading causes of death in U.S. hospitals.

Sepsis is when your body has an overactive response to infection. It can lead to organ failure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a quarter million Americans die every year from sepsis.

Musunuri, a student at Henry M. Jackson High School, got interested in doing this research after reading that horseshoe crab blood is used to detect a bacterial toxin that can cause sepsis. She said horseshoe crab blood can cost $15,000 per quart. So Musunuri created a tiny synthetic particle that could be used to detect and quantify the toxin.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to get it to the stage where you’d be able to implement it within a hospital, but working with the results that I have now, that’s hopefully the path that I’m headed on,” she said.

Musunuri initially started her work with the University of Washington and then continued with Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology. She plans to continue working on her nanoparticle with the hopes of eventually finding a commercial application for it.

“I’m hoping that if we can actually quantify the concentration of this toxin within a couple minutes, rather than having to wait for a blood test, which would take several hours, then we could potentially improve patient outcomes,” she said.

She presented her results at the national Siemens Competition in Washington, D.C. She said she hopes to study either chemical biological engineering or materials sciences in college.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.