Using objects that might clutter the basement of any optics-loving physicist, Mary Masterman built a home-made Raman spectra system. This achievement won the 17-year-old from Westmoore High School in Oklahoma City the top prize at the Intel Science Talent Search on March 13.
Scientists use the Raman method to measure the vibrational energy of molecules. Masterman put together a $300 system consisting of a laser, a digital camera, a variety of lenses, and a prismlike object that disperses light. She tested it on acetone, toluene, and a few household items. Most of her measurements matched those obtained by commercial systems, which can cost up to $100,000. That sum is equal to the scholarship Masterman won for her first-place finish.
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Second place and a $75,000 scholarship went to John Vincent Pardon, a 17-year-old from Durham Academy in Chapel Hill, N.C. In his mathematical project, Pardon proved that a closed curve can be made convex without permitting any two points on the curve to get closer to one another.
Mathematics research also won the third-place prize, which comes with a $50,000 scholarship. Eighteen-year-old Dmitry Vaintrob of South Eugene High School in Eugene, Ore., found a connection between different descriptions of certain mathematical shapes.
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More than 1,700 high school seniors from across the United States entered the competition, sponsored by Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Judges first selected 300 semifinalists and then in January winnowed the field to 40 finalists (SN: 2/3/07, p. 70: Top Prospects for Tomorrow’s Labs: National competition yields a dream team of young scientific talent). Science Service, publisher of Science News, has been administering the competition since 1942.
Fourth place went to Catherine Schlingheyde, 17, of Oyster Bay High School in New York, who identified proteins of a gene-silencing pathway. Rebecca Lynn Kaufman, 17, of Croton-Harmon High School in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., took fifth for a project in which she found a hormonal effect that may explain the prevalence of a class of symptoms in males with schizophrenia. Gregory Drew Brockman, 18, of Red River High School in Thompson, N.D., placed sixth for his mathematical project on Ducci sequences. Each of these three competitors won a $25,000 scholarship.
The seventh- through tenth-place winners each earned a $20,000 scholarship. They are:
Megan Marie Blewett, 17, of Madison High School in New Jersey, who discovered five compounds that interact with a protein that contributes to multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Daniel Adam Handlin, 18, of High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J., who determined that an inexpensive optical satellite-tracking network can be as accurate as a state-of-the-art radar system.
Meredith Ann MacGregor, 18, of Fairview High School in Boulder, Colo., who studied the mechanisms behind the Brazil nut effect, in which granular particles separate according to size when they’re shaken.
Emma Kathryn Call, 18, of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in Maryland, who designed self-folding microcontainers to encapsulate therapeutic cells.
The remaining 30 finalists each won a $5,000 scholarship.
Says Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, “When I meet young scientists like Mary, John, Dmitry, and the other Intel STS finalists, I know that the future of American innovation is bright.”