Forty young, limber brains have made it to the final phase of the nation’s oldest science competition for high school seniors, the Intel Science Talent Search. In March, the finalists will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will spend a week presenting their original research to national leaders, top scientists and the public. Intel and Society for Science & the Public will announce the top award winner, who will take home $100,000, on March 15 during a black-tie gala held at the National Building Museum. Finalists will vie for a total of $630,000 in awards.
This year’s competitors hail from 15 states. For the first time in the history of the event, more of them come from California than New York.
Finalists’ research topics cover a wide range of disciplines. This year’s student projects include a new kind of highly efficient solar cell, a therapy that relies on ultraviolet light to fight autoimmune disease, a study of how air pollution can cause lung inflammation and robots that incorporate emotion to smooth interactions with humans.
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The finalists “exemplify the promise of young people to bring creativity and innovation to bear to create a better world,” says Elizabeth Marincola, publisher of Science News and president of Society for Science & the Public, which has operated the Science Talent Search since 1942. “We applaud their hard work and creativity, and look forward to their continued contributions to human advancement.”
The 40 students selected were winnowed from 300 semifinalists, who were chosen from a pool of 1,744 entrants. These math, engineering and science achievers join a select group of scientific luminaries: Past finalists have earned seven Nobel Prizes and four National Medals of Science. Physicist and Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow was a finalist in 1950; in 1980 Harvard University string theorist Lisa Randall was selected. Actress Natalie Portman was a semi-finalist in 1999.
Last year, Erika DeBenedictis of Albuquerque, N.M., nabbed the Intel Science Talent Search’s top award for her research on spacecraft navigation. DeBenedictis’ study pointed out transit routes through the solar system that would reduce a spacecraft’s fuel consumption.
2011 Intel STS Finalists (listed by state, name, hometown and high school)
ARIZONA Scott Boisvert, Chandler, Basha High School
CALIFORNIA Amol Aggarwal, Saratoga, Saratoga High School; Xiaoyu Cao, San Diego, Torrey Pines High School; Bonnie Lei, Walnut, Walnut High School; Jonathan Li, Laguna Niguel, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School; Selena Li, Fair Oaks, Mira Loma High School; Andrew Liu, Palo Alto, Henry M. Gunn Senior High School; Rohan Mahajan, Cupertino, The Harker School; Evan O’Dorney, Danville,Venture School; Nikhil Parthasarathy, Mountain View, The Harker School; David Tang-Quan, Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School; Chelsea Voss, Santa Clara, Cupertino High School
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CONNECTICUT Jenny Liu, Orange, Amity Regional High School; Shubhro Saha, Avon, Choate Rosemary Hall
FLORIDA Eta Atolia, Tallahassee, Rickards High School; Elaine Zhou, Winter Park, Lake Highland Preparatory School
ILLINOIS Krystle Leung, Naperville, Naperville Central High School
MASSACHUSETTS Sung Won Cho, Lexington, Groton School
MICHIGAN Shubhangi Arora, Novi, Novi High School
MINNESOTA Prithwis Mukhopadhyay, Woodbury, Woodbury High School
NORTH CAROLINA Si-Yi Lee, Charlotte, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics; Matthew Miller, Elon, Western Alamance High School
NEBRASKA Emily Chen, Omaha, Brownell-Talbot School
NEW JERSEY Alison Bick, Short Hills, Millburn High School; Joshua Bocarsly, Plainsboro, The Lawrenceville School; Wenyu Cao, Belle Mead, Phillips Academy
NEW YORK Jonathan Aaron Goldman, Plainview, Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School; Jan Gong, Garden City, Garden City High School; Michelle Hackman, Great Neck, John L. Miller Great Neck North High School; Bryan He, Williamsville, Williamsville East High School; Matthew Lam, Old Westbury, Jericho High School; Grace Phillips, Larchmont, Mamaroneck High School; Alydaar Rangwala, Loudonville, The Albany Academies
OREGON Laurie Rumker, Portland, Oregon Episcopal School; Yushi Wang, Portland, Sunset High School
PENNSYLVANIA Benjamin Clark, Lancaster, Penn Manor High School; Keenan Monks, Hazleton, Hazleton Area High School
TEXAS Madeleine Ball, Dallas, Ursuline Academy of Dallas; Rounok Joardar, Plano, Plano West Senior High School; Sunil Pai, Houston, The Kinkaid School