Five students from Stuyvesant High School—the most from any New York City high school—have been selected as finalists in the annual New York City Science and Engineering Fair (NYCSEF), held at the American Museum of Natural History on March 23. The students will advance to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in San Jose, California, from Sunday, May 9, to Friday, May 14.
According to their Web site, Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, in which over 1,500 high school students from over 50 countries, regions and territories showcase their independent research. The competition has existed for 61 years and is sponsored by the Intel Corporation.
The NYCSEF is the largest high school science research competition in New York City, and is sponsored by the New York City Department of Education and the City University of New York. To enter the competition, applicants submitted a research paper and filled out an application form. Each project fell under one of 14 science and engineering categories, from computer science to environmental science. Several hundred New York City students entered the fair and about 550 projects, which consisted of a research paper and a poster board displaying the student’s research findings, advanced to the preliminary round.
In this round, which was held at The City College of New York on March 14, students presented their poster boards to a panel of three judges. The judges consisted of science educators and professionals in the science and engineering fields, the majority of whom were affiliated with the city’s research institutions and top universities such as Columbia University, as well as the business sector.
Projects were graded on creativity, scientific thought/engineering goals, thoroughness, skill, clarity and teamwork (for group projects). Participants presented their poster boards to three judges and were asked a series of questions based on their project and topic.
The top 150 projects returned for the finals round and were judged by experts in the 14 science and engineering fields.
From the March 23 final round, 12 individual projects and five group projects were selected to represent New York City at the Intel ISEF. From Stuyvesant, the individual projects of seniors Katrina Koon, Jack Greisman, Andrei Nagornyi, Yevgeniy Rudoy, and the group project of junior Stephanie Chen, who worked with two juniors from Francis Lewis High School, were chosen.
Koon’s project was based on marine natural product (natural products from marine sources) research in the coral Capnella imbricate.
“This relatively new field holds much potential as a source of future medicine. I tested two crude extracts from the coral for anticancer activity in five different cancer cell lines [two melanomas, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer] and for antibacterial activity in two types of bacteria [E. coli and B. subtilis]. The extracts exhibited both anticancer and antibacterial activity,” Koon said.
Greisman’s project focused on sporulation, a defense mechanism used by bacteria to protect their DNA in adverse conditions. Greisman worked with Bacillus Subtilis to study the structures that encased the DNA. He submitted the same project to the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search, in which he is a semifinalist.
For his project, Nagornyi researched new ways to help a computer classify galaxies. Nagornyi wrote a program consisting of two algorithms to help detect trends in galaxies. Like Greisman’s work, Nagornyi’s project also earned him a place as a semifinalist in this year’s Intel competition.
“It’s always interesting and fun to see the work of other students that are around your age. It’s a valuable experience,” Nagornyi said.
Rudoy’s project focused on transcendental numbers, a possibly complex number that is not the root of any integer polynomial. Rudoy began by defining a construct called a pseudonumber and used it to make a series of observations which proved whether or not a number was transcendental.
Chen’s group project explored hominid migration out of Africa. The team dated several tooth fossils from Ainikab, Russia and Pradayrol, France, two sites that have yielded prior evidence of hominid activity.
“We discovered that hominids were actually in Eurasia at least 900 thousand years before previously thought. Many AP textbooks state that hominids were in Eurasia by 600 thousand years ago,” Chen said.
Many prizes and scholarships, worth 4 million dollars in total, are offered at the end of the competition. The Intel Young Foundation Scientific Award ($50,000) is given to the top three winners. In each of the 17 scientific categories, five awards are given: Best of Category ($5000), first place ($3000), second place ($1500), third place ($1000) and 4th place ($500). Additionally, other organizations gave out special awards.
“[Intel ISEF] is a wonderful opportunity for a person with a great idea and a willingness to test that idea in contrast to many other contests,” Biology teacher and Research coordinator Jonathan Gastel said. “They don’t need to have been a perfect student at Stuy to win large cash awards. They just need to be curious and committed.”