Emily Tianshi (left) and Jessie Gann, both 16, were honored in a virtual ceremony Sept. 30 as Davidson Fellows. Photos via davidsongifted.org

Two San Diego teens have been named Davidson Fellows — winners of $25,000 scholarships for completing significant projects that have the potential to benefit society in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature or music.

Among the 20 national honorees are Jessie Gan, 16, of San Diego Jewish Academy in Torrey View Estates and Emily Tianshi, 16, of The Cambridge School in Rancho Peñasquitos.

The virtual 2020 Davidson Fellows Scholarship Ceremony was Sept. 30 and can be viewed here.

“I’m extremely grateful to the Davidson Institute and truly honored to have been selected as a Davidson Fellow,” said Gan, a senior. “It represents that my work is being recognized and given a platform, which can lead to it making a difference in the world, every scientists’ dream.”

Her project was in metastasis, or the migration of cancerous cells to other areas of the body. It’s the cause of about 90% of cancer deaths — including Gan’s grandfather.

By applying physics to a biological problem, Gan developed a technique to measure the difference in stickiness between cancer cells and non-cancer cells to determine which cells may metastasize.

“This opportunity was made possible to me by my great uncle, Professor Hew Choy Leong, who helped me reach out to his connections at the Mechanobiology Institute in Singapore,” said her biography. “I would also like to acknowledge Professor Yan Jie who generously accepted me into his lab and gave me important feedback on my project.”

Tianshi, also a senior, said: “I am humbled to be named a 2020 Davidson Fellow and am honored to join a group of students I have looked up to for several years.”

Inspired by the natural world and devoted to creating social impact, Tianshi investigated the moisture harvesting abilities of Torrey pine tree needles.

Using controlled harvesting tests and theoretical analysis, Tianshi fabricated a material and engineered a passive device biomimicking the unique features of the Torrey pine to harvest atmospheric moisture, a potential solution to fresh-water scarcity.

Emily is also a 2019 Intel ISEF second-place winner, 2019 and 2020 National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium first- and third-place awardee, 2020 National Stockholm Junior Water Prize runner-up and the winner of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award at the 2017 Broadcom MASTERS.

“By being awarded this recognition, these students have shown immense skill and work ethic, and they should be commended as they continue their educational and research journeys while continuing to work to solve some of the world’s most vexing problems,” said Bob Davidson, founder of the Davidson Institute.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship has provided more than $8.2 million in scholarship funds to 366 students since its inception in 2001, and has been named one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships by U.S. News & World Report.

It is a program of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a nonprofit headquartered in Reno, Nevada, that supports “profoundly gifted youth.”

In this video, Gan is featured at 11:20 and Tianshi at 15:00:

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