Delaware Students Compete in National BioGENEius Challenge

Ockels takes home award

Three high school students from Delaware competed in the annual National BioGENEius Challenge that was held in Philadelphia June 12-16, 2015 in conjunction with the 2015 BIO International Convention.

Attending were Jaya Bali from Middletown, Francisco Hernandez from Newark and Mikayla Ockels from Milton. Ockels, a senior at Sussex Central High School, was awarded the 2015 Practical Impact Award with her research project entitled “Heritage Hens, Weighing in on Feed to Egg Conversion Rate.” Competing against finalists from across the US, the award recognized Ockels who combined her dedication to sustainability with real world knowledge to increase the productivity of egg farming. The award from the Biotechnology Institute (BI) will provide financial assistance to continue the research along with mentorship from BI as well as industry leaders to support her pursuits.

“Each year, BioGENEius Challenge finalists continue to impress and inspire us with their research,” said Dr. Lawrence Mahan, President of Biotechnology Institute. “They embody the present and future promise of biotechnology to help heal, feed and fuel the world.”

Delaware high school students have received awards or were selected as International finalists at the National BioGENEius competition in 4 of the last 5 years.

The Delaware high school students were able to attend this premier competition because of the generous support of the Delaware BioGENEius Challenge from Aerotek Scientific, DuPont, Fraunhofer USA, QPS, Siemens, We Work for Health Delaware Chapter, W.L. Gore, and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

About Delaware BioGENEius

The BioGENEius Challenge is an opportunity for high school students to compete on an international stage with some of the brightest scientific minds in the world. It is hosted by The Biotechnology Institute, headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Delaware BioGENEius Challenge is coordinated by the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. Local Delaware students in grades 9-12 can compete in the Delaware BioGENEius Challenge, which is held in partnership with three local science fairs – the New Castle County Science Expo, the Kent County Science Fair, and the Sussex County Science Fair.

About Delaware Biotechnology Institute

The Delaware Biotechnology Institute is a partnership among government, academia and industry to help establish the First State as a center of excellence in biotechnology and the life sciences. DBI promotes research, education and technology transfer for biotechnology applications to the benefit of the environment, agriculture and human health.

About the Biotechnology Institute

The Biotechnology Institute is an independent, national nonprofit organization dedicated to education about the present and future impact of biotechnology. Its mission is to engage, excite and educate the public, particularly students and teachers, about biotechnology and its immense potential for solving human health, food and environmental problems. For more information, visit

Article by Allie Sethman

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Francisco Hernandez competed in the National BioGENEius Challenge held in Philadelphia June 12-16, 2015.

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Jaya Bali competed in the National BioGENEius Challenge held in Philadelphia June 12-16, 2015.