Intel Science Talent Search – a science research competition – has long been part of Stuyvesant’s history. In the past nine years, the school has produced two finalists in the top 10, Jessie Keith Anttila Hughs (’99) and Nikita Rozenblyum (’02). This year, Stuyvesant saw a significant surge in Intel winners. With seven semifinalists and four finalists, Stuyvesant has the most finalists in the nation. Last year, there were seven semifinalists; none advanced to the finals.
The Intel experience required motivation, a desire to achieve, and originality. Assistant Principal Biology Elizabeth Fong said that surge is due to a combination of factors, including the large amount of papers submitted (59 applications), excellent mentors, and talented, hardworking students.
Every year, more than 10,000 students submit Intel projects across the nation. Of these applications, only 300 semifinalists are chosen. They, as well as their respective schools, are awarded $1,000. Forty of these semifinalists advance to be finalists, who win $5,000, a laptop, and a trip to Washington, D.C. to compete for the first 10 positions. The winner of the Intel competition will win $100,000 in college scholarships.
Most of the students started researching their topic around the spring term of junior year, did their experiments in labs during the summer after, and finished their research papers with the help of the Intel classes during fall term senior year. Extensive research and long hours of lab work made the Intel projects very demanding and time-consuming. The Intel winners each have their own individual story that got them their title.
Senior Linda Yin
The Effects of Maternal Separation on Adult Neurogenesis in the Dentate Gyrus of Mice, Biology
Through her research, Yin found that after separating young mice from their mothers and thus stressing them out, there was increased neurogenesis, or growth of nerve cells, in young mice. Yin worked with mentor and Ph.D. student Clay Lacesfield at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“[Lacesield] taught me lab techniques and gave me a lot of papers to read about that area of the brain. After a few months, I was familiar with that topic and I started working on my own Intel project,” she said. She started her project in February of her junior year, and finished her experimentation around the end of summer. According to Yin, previous experience with her mentor’s project, Intel classes and taking biology teacher Dr. John Utting’s molecular genetics class sophomore year taught her many techniques that later helped in her project. “Everything just sort of tied together,” she said.
Senior Olivia Hu
Cerebral Lateralization in Chinese-English Bilingualism, Biology
Hu submitted a project on the use of the two hemispheres of the brain in Chinese-English Bilingualism. With the help of her mentor, Alec Marantz, a New York University (NYU) professor, she tested four Chinese-American graduate students using a magneto encephalography (MEG) machine, which measures the magnetic fields produced by electrical activity in the brain. Using MEG, she recorded which hemisphere of the brain the students used when recalling English and Chinese words. Hu said the project was a challenge, since she had to wait for approval from the students to use them as test subjects.
Senior Katherine Banks
The Nonagon Anomaly, Mathematics
Banks proved using combinatorics (a branch of mathematics that deals with geometric configurations), that lattice nonagons (nine-sided closed shapes with vertices designated as grid lattice points) cannot have eight or nine lattice points in their interiors. She completed the project on her own, without the help of a mentor. Banks chose lattice geometry as her topic because “it lends itself to doodling, and I find combinatorial arguments particularly elegant. It doesn’t take too much background to understand either,” she said. “You can pretty much jump right in.”
Banks attended math camp during the summer after her junior year at Hampshire College, Massachusetts. The math ideas there helped her in her research. “Research can get frustrating, and it would’ve been more so, if I hadn’t had people who were excited to see neat partial results,” Banks said.
Senior Tim Chang
Kinetics of Biomediation and Electricity Production in a Novel Microbial Fuel Cell, Microbiology
Chang’s project involved cleaning diluted domestic waste water (water that is flushed or drained from homes) in order to generate electricity. The research process took several months, since it took a few weeks to analyze each reactor. Chang feels his experiment has been successful so far, since he was able to observe the speed at which the reactor he designed consumed nutrients, its efficiency, and how fast it burned into energy. Yet, it is far from over. “I am still doing research,” said Chang, for whom this project is not just a competition, but “fun.” Chang has always been interested in alternative energy, and enjoyed exploring the subject through Intel.
Senior Andre Lazar
A Statistical Analysis of Protein Evolution Indicates Extreme Plasticity in Sequences Outside of Functional Interaction Sites, Biology
Lazar studied protein evolution by analyzing every amino acid in extremely similar proteins. This research can allow scientists to design proteins to help fight diseases. Lazar interned at Columbia University with mentor and Professor John Hunt and Ph.D. graduate student Samuel Handelman during the summer after his sophomore year. There he learned many concepts and computational techniques which he later used while writing his research paper. During his experimentation, Lazar realized that validating his work and redoing experiments multiple times to assure accuracy was extremely important. “I learned that you always have to check what you’re doing every step of the way. Eighty percent of my time was spent cleaning up the mess I made from the other 20 percent,” he said.
Senior Annie Chen
Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein and the Dysregulation of AMPAR Modulating Proteins, Biology
Chen did research in the Fragile X Mental Retardation Syndrome, an inherited disease that causes mental retardation. She compared healthy mice and those that had this disease, and concluded that due to a certain receptor in the diseased mice called •-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4- propionic acid receptor (AMPAR), mice had long-term depression that caused weakening of neurons and thus, mental retardation. Chen worked over the summer with mentor Dr. Reed Carroll at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and took an Intel class with Gastel during fall term senior year. “I learned a lot about human connections you can make and the friendships you can build with people you work at a lab with,” Chen said. “I really got to know these people.”
Senior Theodore Westling
Analysis of a Formal Chip System, Mathematics
Westling focused on the formal logarithms of math by researching the relationship between logic and game of checkers. Westling said the experience was a lot of work, and although it was interesting, “it made me realize that I never want to be a professor.” Westling worked on the math research paper for several months with mentor Professor Joel Spencer at NYU.
Senior Paula Bu
Evidence for Basil Leaf Extract as a Nutraceutical Inhibiting Oxidative Stress, Biology
Bu researched basil leaf extracts that reduced liver injury in rats. She was motivated by her interest in herbs, her parents’ influence and an internship at the Alternative Medicine Office. Bu conducted her experiments at Long Island University with the help of mentor Dr. Sidhartha Ray, and also took Intel research classes with Gastel for help in writing her research paper. She started her experimentation around the end of June of her junior year, and began to write her research paper around October. Bu finished within the week of the deadline.
Senior Artur Dmowski
The Expected Shortest Path in a Randomly Weighted Graph, Mathematics
Dmowski studied and analyzed how to find the expected time to get from one place to another, in order to develop a technique for assessing efficiency of a network of roads. According to Dmowski, the math Intel research class teacher Peter Brooks was helpful since he was able to guide him in writing the report for the project. “I learned that if people don’t get stuff when I try to explain then it’s my fault, not theirs. So, I learned to be rigorous and clear. I also learned calculus and some probability theory, because they were essential for my project,” he said.
Senior Alice Fok
Synthesis and Characterization of CdTe Quantum Dots for in vivo Imaging, Chemistry
Fok , through her research, determined amethod to make cadmium telluride (CdTe) quantum dots, a type of nanocrystal, within a narrow size range of two to 100 nanometers. The main goal of her experiment was to create the CdTe nanocrystals to be approximately the same size so that particular wavelengths of light could be viewed. Without a definite size range, separation techniques to view the wavelengths would be extremely tedious and costly. Fok’s project took much time and patience. “The reading part was very frustrating,” she said. “My mentor kept on asking me to be more specific and for ways of approach, and I knew I either hit a wall or needed to read more if I couldn’t answer it.”
Senior Elizabeth Min
Synthesis of a Slow, Tight-Binding Inhibitor of InhA in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Biology
Min tried to develop a new antibiotic for drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis. She worked at Professor Peter Tonge and graduate student Christopher am Ende at Stony Brook University, Long Island. “Working in a lab really makes you appreciate the work scientists do. Most of the people there were really passionate about what they were doing and it showed exuberance,” Min said. “Some of the work can be a bit tedious, like purifying compounds, but it’s exciting in the end when you are able to actually hold in your hand the end product.”
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein congratulated the city Intel finalists at Principal Stanley Teitel’s conference room on Wednesday, January 30. Bronx High School of Science senior and Intel finalist Artem Serganov was also lauded for his project on the crystallization of roboswitches, which are potential targets for antibiotics. Klein said, “The level of pride we feel at the extraordinary achievement of these finalists is amazing.”
“Even to complete a project or try to complete, that is a pretty big accomplishment,” Gastel said. “Anyone who even attempts to explore this world is a winner.”
“When something good happens, it creates a feeling of opportunity,” Fong said. The success of this year’s Intel applicants has already begun to affect underclassmen, as freshmen and sophomores are getting interested in the project.