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    Intel STS Reveals Semi-Finalists for 2006

    Results of the Intel Science Talent Search (STS) were released last week on Jan. 17, 2007. Of the 300 semi-finalists announced, 20 individuals had conducted their research at SBU. The Intel STS is a national competition for high school seniors, with about 1600 applicants every year. The competition places a heavy emphasis on seeking talent in science. Thus, while a research paper plays a major role in each application, the STS application also requires five essays and multiple short answer responses focusing on the student’s experience in conducting his/her project. Sarah Kirsh, Hillary Lin, Rachel Yu, and Rebecca Yu, currently seniors at Ward Melville High School, make up four of the University’s 20 semi-finalists.

    Kirsh, Lin, Rachel Yu and Rebecca Yu, members of the InSTAR Research Program at Ward Melville High School, performed their research in a wide variety of fields. Kirsh’s research focused on identifying differences in hypersensitivities between autistic males and females, one of those differences being levels of serotonin in blood platelets. Kirsh, who worked with Patricia Whitaker-Azmitia in Psychology, said she wanted to pursue research in autism because she has an autistic brother and has conducted fundraising for autism for many years.

    Lin’s research, with Turhan Canli in Psychology, involved seeing differences in male and female brain activity during varying emotional states, sadness, fear, and happiness. Lin used functional MRI (fMRI) for her studies, a technique that detects differences in brain activity based on oxygen consumption. Lin will be attending Stanford University this Fall.

    Rachel Yu worked in the field of molecular electronics under Andreas Mayr in Chemistry. She focused on the development of cubic molecular cages to control the flow of electrons between metal blocks. As Rachel Yu described, her project was highly theoretical and worked in collaboration with the Physics and Chemistry departments.

    Rebecca Yu’s research, conducted with Philip Allen in Physics and Astronomy, was much more abstruse. In her own words, Rebecca Yu described her research as a continuation of the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam experiments of the 1950s. Contemplating the prospect of a career in engineering, Rebecca Yu commented that she is still deciding. She said, ‘There are many different careers available.’

    Karen Kernan, Director of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URECA) at SBU, remarked on the variety of projects that won this year, ‘They’re from many different departments. The faculty here put a lot of time and energy into helping high school students and I think it does show.’

    While winning a prize is always nice, George Baldo, Ph.D., the director of InSTAR emphasizes the efforts of all the 33 applicants to the Intel STS from Ward Melville High School this year. Baldo, a research assistant professor at SBU, wrote to the Village Times Herald on Jan. 10, 2007, ‘The Three Village area is blessed with an unusually high percentage of industrious, motivated students who strive to attain their intellectual potential’hellip;.These young scientists dedicate their final summer as high school students not to bask at the beach with friends, but in laboratories across Long Island completing their research projects’hellip;We congratulate these students for their exemplary efforts, whether or not they are recognized by judges.’

    Baldo’s sentiments were echoed by several other university professors as well.

    Miriam Rafailovich, Director of the Garcia Center where high school students have participated in research for the past 10 years, commented ‘We have a center for studying polymers and other materials funded by the national science foundation’hellip;.We emphasize that it is more important to do quality work which is published in a refereed journal than to win a high school competition.’

    Srinivas Pentyala, Director of Translational Research and Associate Professor in Anesthesiology, said, ‘I don’t really care about the prize. If a student comes into my laboratory and learns how to be patient, organized, efficient, if he/she learns how to interact with a group, this is enough for me. I like to take students who, when I speak to them, are enthusiastic about learning, even if they don’t know exactly what they want to do.’

    Pentyala is also the coordinator of SARAS, short for Science and Research Awareness Series, and according to Pentyala, ‘People of all ages come, high school students, post docs, everyone. But I want to see more undergraduates participate.’

    The mission statement of SARAS is, ”hellip;to bring enthusiastic students on different aspects of basic, clinical and translational sciences and associated specialties of the biomedical field. Scientists, physicians, allied health professionals, health administrators and other experts will be involved in educating the students about different topics, specialties, and also laboratory and clinical techniques. The interaction between these experts and the students will enhance the participant’s educational experience and gives the students an insight into different fields and careers of biomedical sciences.’

    Pentayala questioned, ‘We have 17,000 undergraduates here. How many of them know what they want to do?’ This year, SARAS will be held from July 9th through July 26th. A comprehensive schedule with a listing of all topics for discussion can be found at the SARAS website, http://anes.anesthes.sunysb.edu/teaching/sas.html.

    A brief perusal of the workshop titles shows the variety of fields are covered, from ‘Smile and Be Happy: Dentistry’ with Maria Ryan, DDS, Ph.D., to ‘Smart Robots invade the lab’ with Arun Kumar, Ph.D., and even ‘The Business of Biotechnology’ with Joseph Scaduto from the Center for Biotechnology.

    Focusing on the experience of doing research and the overall learning process is championed by other facilities on campus as well. The Laser Teaching Center, run by Harold Metcalf, Ph.D. and John Noe, Ph.D., is known for taking high school students for summer research. Journal entries written by students of the Laser Center showing their overall investigative journey through their research can be found online at the Laser Center’s website, http://laser.physics.sunysb.edu/projects/.

    For more information on undergraduate research, one can speak to just about any professor at the University. Also, Karen Kernan, Director of URECA, can be found in the Melville Library N3005.

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