Teen finalists selected in 2014 Intel STS competition

Forty high-school seniors have just been named finalists in the March Intel Science Talent Search competition

Here is a field of medals that will be awarded to finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search. 

L. Buitrago/SSP

Forty teen researchers have made it into the final phase of the 2014 Intel Science Talent Search. In early March, this group will visit Washington, D.C., to present their research to judges and the public. The winners, to be announced at a black-tie gala, will share awards totaling $630,000. The top winner will take home $100,000.

These finalists come from 14 states. They were chosen from a starting field of 300 semifinalists. Each qualified by submitting findings of original research. The semifinalists’ work spans a broad range of fields — from stem cells to supercapacitors (fast-charging, low-cost alternatives to batteries). One finalist harnessed math to provide doctors with a way to better understand abnormal heart rhythms.

“We are inspired by the knowledge, determination and passion of this year’s Intel Science Talent Search finalists,” said Rick Bates, interim chief executive officer of Society for Science & the Public. SSP, based in Washington, D.C., founded the Science Talent Search in 1942. It has run this premier student competition ever since. (SSP also publishes Science News and Science News for Students.)

“With Intel, we share great excitement in the promise of [the finalists’] future,” Bates says — “not only at the finals in March, but as they dig deeper into their particular research and into the challenges society faces.”

This year’s finalists — 15 girls and 25 boys — will represent 33 high schools from coast to coast. They were chosen from among 1,794 entries from 45 states, the District of Columbia and seven overseas schools. Almost half of the finalists hail from either California or New York. However, the high school producing the most finalists, Montgomery Blair, resides in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.

“We celebrate these 40 students because their contributions to the world of science will help solve some of our most pressing challenges,” says Wendy Hawkins. She’s executive director of the Intel Foundation in Santa Clara, Calif. “The Intel Science Talent Search,” she notes, “encourages hands-on experience with math and science, which is imperative in enabling young people to think critically, solve problems and understand the world around them.”

Intel assumed title sponsorship of the Science Talent Search (STS) almost 16 years ago. Since taking over this role, Intel has increased annual awards and scholarships from $207,000 in 1998 to $1.25 million this year.

Last year, Sara Volz of Colorado Springs, Colo., took home the top Intel STS prize. Her experiments coaxed algae into boosting production of an oil for use as a biofuel. Jonah Kallenbach, from Ambler, Pa., came in second place. His research better predicts how drug molecules latch onto proteins. Adam Joseph Bowman, of Brentwood, Tenn., garnered third place for research conducted over several years. Working in his family’s garage, he designed, built and fine-tuned a plasma gun.

Past Intel STS participants have gone on to distinguished research careers. Along the way, they have earned more than 100 of the world’s most coveted scientific accolades. These include eight Nobel prizes, two Fields Medals (for outstanding discoveries in mathematics), five National Medals of Science and 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships.

2014 Intel STS finalists

CALIFORNIA – Kathy Camenzind, San Ramon, California High School; Eric Chen, San Diego, Canyon Crest Academy; Angela Kong, San Jose, Lynbrook High School; Kevin Lee, Irvine, University High School; Charles Liu, Palo Alto, Henry M. Gunn High School; Esha Maiti, San Ramon, California High School; Sreyas Misra, Cupertino, The Harker School; Natalie Ng, Cupertino, Monta Vista High School; Emily Pang, San Ramon, Dougherty Valley High School; Jiho Park, Irvine, University High School; Vishnu Shankar, Cupertino, Monta Vista High School

CONNECTICUT – Anne Merrill, Old Greenwich, Greenwich High School

GEORGIA – Anand Srinivasan, Roswell, Roswell High School

HAWAII – Viola Mocz, Mililani, Mililani High School

ILLINOIS – Rahul Mehta, Chicago, The University of Chicago Laboratory High School

INDIANA – Yushi Homma, Carmel, Carmel High School

MASSACHUSETTS – William Kuszmaul, Lexington, Lexington High School; Ajay Saini, Acton, Acton-Boxborough Regional High School; David Seong, Lexington, Lexington High School

MARYLAND –Shaun Datta, North Potomac, Montgomery Blair High School; Neil Davey, Gaithersburg, Montgomery Blair High School; Benjamin Freed, Frederick, Governor Thomas Johnson High School; Jessica Shi, Rockville, Montgomery Blair High School

NEW JERSEY – Joshua Meier, Teaneck, Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology; Brianna Pereira, Fort Lee, Academy for Medical Science Technology

NEW YORK – John Clarke, Syosset, Regis High School; Aron Coraor, Huntington, Huntington High School; Soham Daga, Forest Hills, Stuyvesant High School; Anubhav Guha, Chappaqua, Horace Greeley High School; Ivan Paskov, Scarsdale, Edgemont High School; Sara Sakowitz, New York, The Brearley School; Kaitlyn Shin, Jericho, Jericho Senior High School

NORTH CAROLINA – Alec Arshavsky, Chapel Hill, East Chapel Hill High School; Parth Thakker, Charlotte, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

SOUTH DAKOTA – Zarin Rahman, Brookings, Brookings High School

TENNESSEE – Joyce Kang, Brentwood, Brentwood High School

TEXAS – Steven Chen, Austin, Westwood High School; Lisa Michaels, Plano, Plano West Senior High School; Thabit Pulak, Richardson, Richardson High School

Power Words

biofuels  Energy sources derived from carbon stored in living organisms. Although wood is a biofuel, most people who support “green” sources of energy consider biofuels to be liquids that can substitute for gasoline. Examples include bioethanol, an alcohol derived from crops such as corn or sugar cane. Engineers are also developing ways to make biofuels from nonfood crops, such as trees and shrubs. Renewable biofuels are an alternative to nonrenewable fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal.

capacitor  An electrical component used to store energy. Unlike batteries, which store energy chemically, capacitors store energy physically, in a form very much like static electricity.

cardiac  Relating to the heart.

cardiac arrhythmia  Irregular heartbeat. In arrhythmias, heartbeats can be faster than normal, slower than normal, or simply have a different rhythm than normal. Many arrhythmias are not life-threatening, but some can cause death.

plasma  (in chemistry and physics) A gaseous state of matter in which electrons separate from the atom. A plasma includes both positively and negatively charged particles.

plasma gun  A device that produces a hot, dense, short-lived stream of plasma.

stem cell  A “blank slate” cell that can give rise to other types of cells in the body. Stem cells play an important role in tissue regeneration and repair.

supercapacitor  A high-performance capacitor.

About Sid Perkins

Sid Perkins is an award-winning science writer who lives in Crossville, Tenn., with his wife, two dogs and three cats. He enjoys cooking and woodworking, and he really, really wants to get better at golf.