Space exploration could become cheaper and more efficient, and scientists might understand how genetics influence the spread of prostate cancer—thanks to the work of some very talented high school students.
The Washington, D.C.-based Society for Science and the Public honored the 2010 winners of the Intel Science Talent Search on March 16, recognizing 40 high school seniors for their original research projects.
Students entered a variety of project topics, including the study of racial genetic factors that might affect the spread of prostate cancer, using cluster analysis of objects in the night sky to study the structure and evolution of the early universe, and researching ways to reverse drug resistance in breast cancer cells.
The top 10 finalists were announced at an awards gala in Washington, D.C. Each received a four-year scholarship ranging from $20,000 to $100,000.
Erika DeBenedictis, an 18-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., won the top award of $100,000 for her project developing a software navigation system to help improve spacecraft travel through the solar system. Her research found that the gravity and movement of planets create “easy transit routes,” which ultimately will help spacecrafts move faster and with less fuel.
Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist and author of The World is Flat, told the students that the most important thing is embracing the first spark of an idea.
“Whatever can be done will be done. The only question is, ‘Will it be done by you or to you?'” he said. “It’s all about the spark of the idea. [There are resources out there] that can take it to scale.”
The Glenn T. Seaborg award winner, Alice Wei Zhao, of Sheboygan, Wis., was selected by her peers to address the ceremony’s attendees. She spoke of the week she spent with the other finalists, whom she described as a combination of intelligent, down-to-earth, modest, and silly people.
“The inspiration to seek knowledge is the true essence of a scientist and a scholar,” she said. “Take initiative, become inspired, [and] surround yourself with others who love science.”
The 40 finalists came from 36 schools in 18 states and were chosen from more than 1,700 entries. Along with DeBenedictis’s first-place $100,000 scholarship, the second-place winner received a $75,000 scholarship, the third-place winner received a $50,000 scholarship, the fourth-place winner $40,000, and fifth-place received $30,000. Sixth and seventh places received $25,000, and eighth through 10th places received $20,000. The remaining 30 finalists each received at least $7,500 in awards.
Paul Ottelini, president and chief executive officer of Intel, said Americans need to work to get rid of the stigma associated with being smart.
“We need being smart to be like the Olympics. And we need the U.S. to take home the gold,” he said.
The Intel Science Talent Search encourages students to tackle challenging scientific questions and develop the skills necessary to solve the problems of tomorrow. Over the past 68 years, Science Talent Search finalists have gone on to win seven Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, three National Medals of Science, and 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships.
Note to readers:
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