Two seniors distinguished as Intel semifinalists

Senior+Minah+Kim+presents+her+research+with+her+mentors+at+the+Simons+program+symposium+at+Stony+Brook+University.++Kim+submitted+her+research+to+Intel+STS+from+which+she+received+distinction+as+a+semifinalist.

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Senior Minah Kim presents her research with her mentors at the Simons program symposium at Stony Brook University. Kim submitted her research to Intel STS from which she received distinction as a semifinalist.

Ana Espinoza, Assistant News Editor

This year, two seniors, Drew Feldman and Minah Kim, were distinguished as semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search competition, and will each receive a $1,000 prize.   Intel STS recognizes 300 students and their schools as semifinalists each year and 40 of those students move on to become finalists.  The organization distributes $1.25 million in awards to the students distinguished by Intel STS for excellence in science research and academic standing.

Semifinalists were announced online on Jan. 9 at 3:00 p.m.

“I started to check the Intel website at 2:00. I refreshed the page about 100 times until the link became hot at about 2:55. Drew was the first name I found on the national list. I was so excited for Drew. His research is amazing and he worked as hard or even harder over the past three years then anyone else to achieve this award,” said math research teacher Mr. Anthony Tedesco.

Feldman, a student in the math research program, conducted research at Boston University through the Research Internship in Science and Engineering (RISE) program.  His project was called “Elastic Modulus Reconstructions from Sparse Displacement Measurements.” Feldman used ultrasound image data to measure the relative stiffness of tissues and analyzed the effect that decreasing amounts of data had on this calculation.  He prepared and ran numerous tests, calculations, and algorithms on a computer.

Feldman’s project could potentially facilitate the diagnosis of certain medical conditions, such as cancer and asthma or any other illness that deals with the stiffening of tissues.  Specifically, it could be used to quickly determine the malignancy of a tumor, but further studies need to be done before any clinical application were to exist.

“The mentorship experience was fun.  It gave me a way to really understand the role that a scientist/engineer has in a professional academic environment,” said Feldman.  “I had a great relationship with my mentor.  We had tea with two graduate students every day and spoke often about many things, not just science and math.  We all went out to lunch a few times also so it wasn’t necessarily all work.”

Kim, a science research student, worked at Stony Brook University under Dr. Peter Tonge in the chemistry department.  She conducted research as part of the Simons program which provides funding and a stipend for all participants.

Kim’s project focused on early stages of drug development for individuals infected with B.  pseudomallei, a bacteria that causes  meliodosis, a potentially fatal disease endemic in tropical regions.  Currently, treatment is difficult and ineffective due to the resistance of the bacterium to antibiotics.

She tested four inhibitors against a protein that is essential to the viability of B.  pseudomallei.  The inhibitors were able to stop activity of the protein to varying extents, which would prevent the survival of the pathogen. Through her research, Kim addressed the need to design novel antibiotics against such pathogens.

“I really enjoyed working in the laboratory at Stony Brook.  It was a great experience to work, collaborate, and learn with graduate students.  The program was seven weeks long, but I commuted to the lab even after my program ended to collect more data for my project.  My project was a really small part of all the research that was going on, and I learned a lot from helping other graduate students with their projects,” said Kim.

All seniors in research classes at Schreiber are required to enter the competition, but other students who have done research are allowed to enter as well.

“It never hurts to have people whose work is recognized at that level. It is a substantiation of the research program,” said Assistant Principal Dr. Brad Fitzgerald.  “It is a really tough competition and so any time Schreiber has names flying up into that competition, it supports our mission.  It clearly puts the school in good standing.

Students entering the competition had to go through a rigorous application process.  After executing a project and collecting data, usually in a research laboratory, students had to write a research report ranging between 10 and 20 pages.  During the school year, students had to answer six essay questions and fill out numerous forms about their research, aspirations, and inspirations.

Research classes start preparing students for Intel early in their junior year. The students write emails to professors at  universities who are currently researching an area that interests the students. Students learn how to formulate a research paper and how to conduct themselves in a research setting. Students also have a timeline to help manage their work.

“Applying for Intel is a lot of work for a student. Most students are driven away by the length of the application or the many essays that are required, in addition to the research. The research teachers and students at Schreiber High School embrace this obstacle and work together to achieve this goal,” said Mr. Tedesco.

This year, the application season was especially difficult due to power outages as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  Intel STS extended its deadlines by four days to accommodate students from areas affected by Sandy.  Many students from Schreiber wrote their applications during the power outage, and had to find places with Internet access so that they could fill out the online application.

“My friends and I went to Barnes and Noble to write our Intel applications during the week off because of Sandy.  In a way, it was really nice to have that week off to focus just on Intel and college applications,” said Kim.

Schreiber has had 70 semifinalists and six finalists since 2000.  However, in recent years, the number of applicants has increased and competition has become stiff.

“I’m very excited for Minah because she is extraordinarily deserving of this and likewise for Drew,” said science research teacher Mr. John Schineller.  “It is a shame that there are so many applicants from so many schools doing research.  Thus, other deserving students may not get the recognition they were hoping for.  It’s just competition.  It’s a much more clear indication that they have to pick and choose with more discretion.”

“We’re lucky that we do have winners and the students who won truly deserve tremendous credit,” said Dr. Fitzgerald.  “I feel bad for the kids who worked just as hard and had excellent projects that for whatever reason did not make it.  I don’t think the kids who go into this always do this for the sake of winning the competition, but rather for the experience and to do research and publish it.”

Finalists will be announced on Jan. 23 and they will receive an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C.  in early March when they will compete for the final awards.