Stuyvesant seniors Anissa Mak and Adam Sealfon were named finalists in the 68th Intel Science Talent Search (STS) on Tuesday, January 27.
Mak and Sealfon are two of 40 national finalists who will travel to the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C., from Thursday, March 5 to Tuesday, March 10, to compete for 530,000 dollars in scholarship money. Each finalist receives a minimum of 5,000 dollars and a new laptop. The grand prize winner will receive a 100,000 dollar scholarship from the Intel Foundation.
According to the Web site of the Society for Science & the Public, “the competition has provided a national stage for America’s best and brightest young scientists.”
Mak submitted a mathematics project entitled “A Certifying Algorithm for the Modular Decomposition of Undirected Graphs.” Modular decomposition is a method of describing the structure of a graph in the form of a tree diagram. Mak created the first certification algorithm for modular decomposition. A certification algorithm is meant to prove that a process or computation is in fact correct.
Dr. Ross McConnell from Colorado State University was Mak’s mentor. Since Dr. McConnell is based in Colorado, it was “hard to talk about math on the phone, especially something as visual as graph theory,” Mak said.
Mak attended the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM) program over the summer. Computer science teacher Peter Brooks assisted Mak in the Math Intel Research course.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be a finalist,” Mak said.
Math teacher Gary Rubinstein recommended McConnell, who was his former mentor at graduate school, when Mak was taking the Intel Research course. “She was very determined and didn’t ever lose focus,” Rubinstein said.
Sealfon’s computer science project was entitled “Complexity Gap between Adaptive and Nonadaptive Algorithms for Property Testing of Hypergraphs.” He explored the concepts of graphs and hypergraphs, which have practical applications in a variety of fields, including biology and search engines. Sealfon studied algorithms that test the properties of such hypergraphs.
During the summer, Sealfon attended the Research Science Institute (RSI) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked with Victor Chen, a graduate student at MIT.
“Victor was very helpful, and shared with me the paper that ultimately inspired my topic,” Sealfon wrote in an e-mail interview.
Brooks assisted Sealfon in the Math Intel Research course. Math teachers Jim Cocoros and Joseph Stern also assisted Sealfon in his project.
“I’m really excited to be a finalist,” Sealfon said. “Everyone worked really hard on these projects and I feel honored to have made the finals.”
“Their projects were spectacular and they each took on problems that required a deep and original understanding,” Brooks said. “They richly deserve it.”