Science’s New Guard: Winners of annual competition get honors and hefty scholarships

An 18-year-old from Utah has been crowned sovereign of high school science. Shannon Lisa Babb of American Fork High School earned recognition and a lucrative scholarship for her

WATER WORK. Shannon Babb won the Intel Science Talent Search for studying pollution in Utah’s Spanish Fork River. B. Goldberg

6-month investigation of water quality. Her project was one of 40 honored this week in the annual Intel Science Talent Search (STS).

Babb conducted monthly testing at seven sites along the Spanish Fork River and its tributaries. She found that nitrate, phosphorus, sediment, and other substances make it the most polluted river flowing into Utah Lake.

The second-place prize went to Yi Sun, 17, of the Harker School in San Jose, Calif., for developing a mathematical formula that describes particles in random motion. His research could be applied to photons moving within stars or to polymers that grow like vines around another object.

Yuan “Chelsea” Zhang, 17, of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., took third place for demonstrating that certain by-products of low-density lipoproteins cause artery cells to increase production of a sticky molecule that may contribute to vessel blockages. Her finding suggests potential targets for drugs that combat atherosclerosis.

Those top three winners will receive scholarships of $100,000, $75,000, and $50,000, respectively, from contest sponsor Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Science Service, which publishes Science News, administered the contest, as it has since 1942.

At a March 14 awards banquet in Washington, D.C., Intel chairman Craig Barrett congratulated each finalist. “The talent represented at Intel STS is a dramatic illustration that investing in science and math education will pay great dividends for the future of American innovation,” Barrett said.

Students placing fourth, fifth, and sixth will receive $25,000 scholarships, while four other top competitors will each get $20,000 toward educational expenses. The remaining 30 finalists in the competition (SN: 1/28/06, p. 54: Young Scientists Get Results: Science, math, and engineering competition selects 40 talented finalists) will each get $5,000, and all finalists will take home a notebook computer.

The other winners in the top 10 were, in order:

Nicholas Michael Wage, 17, of Appleton High School East in Wisconsin, who studied the properties of networks known as Paley graphs.

Jerrold Alexander Lieblich, 17, of Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, N.Y., who found that the brain processes a spoken word even when a person is tricked into perceiving a different sound.

David Bruce Kelley, 18, of Highland High School in New York, who determined that liquid neon is not the ideal medium for a neutrino detector.

Myers Abraham Davis, 17, of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in Maryland, who developed a method that could permit computers to study particle collisions and process video game graphics more efficiently.

Adam Ross Solomon, 16, of John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, N.Y., who improved on methods of assessing the age of brown dwarf stars from their near-infrared spectra.

Evan Scott Gawlik, 17, of Texas Academy of Mathematics & Science in Denton, who used computational chemistry to investigate what he calls the “exceptions to the rule” that noble gases don’t form chemical bonds.

Kimberly Megan Scott, 17, of Wellesley High School in Wellesley Hills, Mass., whose study of algebraic rules for distinguishing different objects could have applications in computer science.

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