D219 science students earn international recognition, prizes

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D219 science students earn international recognition, prizes

Ayana Jamal

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Last week, five District 219 students traveled to Pittsburgh, Penn., for the 63rd annual International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) sponsored by Intel Corp. Three of them placed at the Grand Awards Ceremony and earned special awards. West senior Felix Angelov, North seniors Ariella Hoffman-Peterson, Ayana Jamal and Elan Ness-Cohn and North junior Haley Sproull represented the Illinois Junior Academy of Science (IJAS) Region 6 and our schools at the prestigious event.

Intel ISEF is the world’s largest and most distinguished pre-collegiate science fair in the world, with more than 68 regions, nations and states represented, amounting to more than 1,500 presenters. Throughout the week, more than $3 million in awards and scholarships are up for grabs. This year, top student projects included using nanotechnology to create an affordable pancreatic cancer detecting test, training bees to sniff out bombs, theorizing on physics concepts to formulate a potential way to send messages from point A to point B with no way of being intercepted (a product that the Navy was already interesting in purchasing from the student) and constructing exceedingly efficient wind turbines.

While deliberating on ways to inform outsiders of the science community the significance and fame of the ISEF, three-time finalist Ness-Cohn accurately compared the esteemed fair to the Olympics: students have been training and compiling their work for years for this very moment, competing against the most intelligent students from across the globe for worldwide recognition. A single mistake in speech or lack of appropriate knowledge in your respective topic area can result in lowered scores and harm one’s chances of placing.  Having the opportunity to simply compete in the fair is an accomplishment on its own; winning awards at this renowned exposition  is equivalent to receiving gold medals at the Olympics as one is  internationally recognized for their accomplishments.

This year, following up on a fourth place finish at the 2011 ISEF, Angelov snagged one of the two First Place Awards in Microbiology (worth $3,000) and received the “Best In Category” Award in Microbiology (worth $5,000). This also means that Angelov is currently recognized as one of the top 17 students in the entire scientific world at the moment as there are only a total of 17 categories at ISEF with one winner for each. The award also allocates another $1,000 to the science program at West and another $1,000 to the IJAS Region 6. Angelov additionally won an all expenses paid trip to attend a summer program at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel this summer, a program worth $6,000. Angelov’s project concentrated on using a specific molecule to kill viruses without killing the host bacteria, a method that would prevent the rise of virus-resistant bacteria and inhibit more disease spread.

“When they called my name, I froze and couldn’t believe what I had heard,” a modest Angelov said. “I am honored to have had such a rewarding experience at ISEF this year and such great friends throughout the journey whose enthusiasm made it a truly once in a lifetime experience.”

Jamal received two special awards: First Award by the Endocrine Society (worth $1,000) and the Fourth Award by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (worth $250). She also went on to earn one of the Fourth Place overall awards in the fair in Medicine and Health Science (worth $500). Jamal’s project focused on investigating a novel approach in rescuing vertebrates with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome phenotypes.

Sproull also came out victorious with one of the Fourth Place overall awards in the fair in Environmental Management for her project dealing with using strontium as a way to remove radioactive waste from plants (worth $500).

Despite the high degree of competitive nature ISEF seems to foster, Intel and the Society for Science and the Public do a tremendous job highlighting that the event is an enjoyable celebration of science and engineering, bringing researchers from all nations to see all that has been accomplished in various subject areas. “I was able to meet so many new, amazing people during ISEF,” Sproull said. “I met people from South Africa, Brazil, Portugal, Macau and the UK. It was an incredible experience to interact with them and is was definitely one of the coolest parts of the week.” Finalists were also able to hang out and dance at the Steelers stadium, participate in activities and watch IMAX movies at the Carnegie Mellon Science Center, play games at a sports zone complex and attend a dance at the American Eagle Stage Club, all free of charge.

The District 219 science program hopes to continue this trend of excelling their students and pushing them to the next level to not only put the school on the map, but to create the leaders and future of tomorrow.