2016 E=mc2 High School Science Intel SemiFinalists

By Eash Aggarwal - Medicine
Human memory is undeniably variable. It is evident that no two people can have the exact same memory capacity? however, it is also palpable that a single person’s individual memory is extremely inconsistent. It has been shown that there are several factors that could account for such variation? for example, differences in a person’s memory across his or her lifespan could be accounted for by age and neuroplasticity, while differences across years could be accounted for by factors such as maturation and experience (Maylor 1998? Stebbins et al., 2002? Tisserand, McIntosh, van der Veen, Backes, & Jolles, 2005). On the other hand, memory discrepancies become more difficult to account for when variability occurs from one hour to the next, or furthermore, from minute to minute. With near constant external conditions in such short amounts of time, it is possible that there exist certain concrete external variables that can account for such differences. At the same time, it could also be the case that such differences are inexplicable by external factors, and that the brain is simple better suited for cognitive tasks at certain times than others . . . My advice to someone . . . wants to undertake a project combining math and science would be to be open to learning things they may never have even heard of before. I would advise to not get discouraged if you find that the research you want to do involves topics beyond the scope of your high school curriculum, and instead to embrace this as a challenge to learn much more than you could ever learn in class. Do not just stick to topics you are comfortable with in doing your research? go above and beyond to learn more about the science and math you will be integrating in your project, and you will find it to be invaluable. Read more...
By David Amirault - Mathematics
I researched the efficiency of modern algorithms that test whether large integers are prime or not. As it turns out, this question is fundamental to modern cryptography: many modern encryption algorithms used for internet security purposes require a steady supply of large prime numbers. Although many different primality tests are used in cryptography, I focused on the strong Lucas pseudoprime test, which relies on concepts from algebraic number theory. To begin working on my project, I did over a month of background reading on algebraic number theory. Read more...
By Sela Berenblum - Medicine
More than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. While some of these pregnancies are due to birth control method failures, most are due to unanticipated exposure. Emergency contraception is a postcoital contraception that allows women the possibility of preventing pregnancy in such cases. Currently, there are two types of FDA-approved emergency contraception: the coppercontaining intrauterine device (IUD) and oral emergency contraceptive pills. The most effective method for emergency contraception is the IUD at 99.9%. However, the hormonal pills are far more widely used, at about 90% for women who are at risk for pregnancy, because they are more easily accessible, more affordable, convenient, free of adverse side-effects and do not require after-care. While the outcomes of emergency contraception are well-documented, their mechanism(s) of action remain a matter of discussion. Due to the gap in knowledge regarding emergency contraceptive pill efficacy, my study focuses on the mechanism of action of emergency contraceptive pills. Read more...
By Katelyn Boisvert - Ecology
Over the past fifty years, land temperatures have increased at a decadal rate almost twice that compared to the past 100 years. Warming Earth’s atmosphere creates a rise in ocean heat content, and alters wind patterns and storm systems that impact surface layer mixing and ocean stratification, affecting nutrient availability. Changes in ocean temperatures and nutrient conditions are expected to impact many organisms including phytoplankton, the ocean’s major producer. To evaluate how climate change threatens marine ecosystems, this project studied the impact of rising sea surface temperature and altered nutrient availability on the phytoplankton Thalassiosira. Read more...
By Audrey Cheng - Chemistry
I came across an article on organic solar cells during the my time in the Garcia Research Program at Stony Brook University this past summer and was instantly fascinated by the versatility and possible uses of these devices. Imagine abundant, cheap solar cells being integrated around the world! Intrigued by the idea of using plastics to capture solar energy, I did more research into this technology. After thorough reading, I found that a significant limitation of these devices was the narrow range over which they could absorb light. I wanted to investigate enhancements to the self-assembled organic solar cell system to increase the potential of these devices. Recalling that I had studied in AP Biology how the presence of multiple types of pigments in plant leaves maximized photosynthesis, I decided to incorporate multiple donors into the solar cells after reading about similar blends in various research papers that improved device performance. Read more...
By Cori Dauman - Psychology
The present study aims to investigate the impact of two types of pressure to conform on decision making in an online setting. Since there has been an increase in social media usage in the political realm, the present study investigates how viewing “comments” and “likes” that are present on various social networking sites can cause a significant change in people’s political opinions. Subjects received both an informational conformity condition and a normative conformity condition as participants served as their own control. For both conditions, subjects gave their initial opinions on five different political issues. In the informational conformity condition, participants viewed persuasive “comments” on one of the political issues? whereas in the normative conformity condition, participants viewed “likes” on one of the political issues. Subjects also completed the Satisfaction with Decision Scale (HolmesRovner et. al., 1996) after each condition. Overall, the present study illustrates the profound impact of informational and normative pressure on people’s political opinions and decision satisfaction in online environments. Read more...
By Dessie DiMino - Medicine and Materials
3DPrinters have slowly become more commonplace as they become cheaper and smaller. Makerspaces and libraries have made them more accessible for the average consumer to use, normally to print something small and made only of single colored plastic. 3Dprinters have become prominent in many fields, most notably, tissue engineering. My research focused on 3Dinkjet printers, which unlike most 3Dprinters use a liquid ink, not a plastic. This allowed me to use the 3Dprinter to create a specific shape while keeping the final product soft enough to resemble tissues and support cell growth. The bioink was made with a polymer called hyaluronic acid (HA) which is a key component of extracellular matrices for supporting muscle structure. Read more...
By Rohan Dixit - Engineering
The objective of the research project was to create a vision-based system to monitor a robot’s movements in real-time. The system provides a mechanism to monitor the control system’s function and check that there are no errors in the system. Video feed captured by a camera (Microsoft Kinect sensor) is compared to how the robot is supposed to function at a particular instant of time to determine any discrepancies using image comparison. These discrepancies are detected using threshold values. For example, if a measured relationship value is below the threshold, one can determine that the robot is not in the position it is supposed to be in. In addition to this, a message can be sent to the system manager or the robot system can be shutdown to prevent any damage to its surroundings. Read more...
By Kevin Li - Biology and Medicine
I specifically studied lysosomal distribution in distal axons, or the parts of the axons that were further away from the cell body. I did so using microfluidic chambers which are devices that allow the physical separation of the cell body and the axons . . . Altogether, my research actually suggests that lysosomes are mobile, and can be recruited to degrade waste in neurons’ axons, instead of staying within the neuronal cell body. Defects in lysosomal either transport or function may lead to accumulation of “waste” proteins in axons as seen in neuronal disorders. This study established a solid foundation to further investigate the role of lysosomes in distal axons under healthy and stress conditions associated with axonal degeneration. If we better understand the mechanisms behind lysosomal movement and distribution in axons, we can develop better therapeutic strategies in treating major neurodegenerative diseases, such as AD, PD, and ALS. Read more...
By Raymond Lin - Physics
One of the great remaining mysteries of modern physics is the accelerating expansion of the universe. It has been proposed that dark energy is responsible for this phenomenon. In order to understand dark energy, it is necessary to compute the energy density of the vacuum that arises from the fundamental eld theories that describe the universe. The vacuum energy density appears in Einstein's theory of general relativity as the famous cosmological constant, and was first introduced in order to establish a static universe. General relativity would have otherwise predicted an expanding or contracting universe, and it was generally believed at the time that the universe was not changing in size. Later, when Hubble discovered that the universe was indeed expanding, Einstein discarded the constant. However, there is nothing in general relativity that forbids the introduction of the cosmological constant, and today, it is clear that its value must be found if one is to use general relativity to explain dark energy. Read more...
By Sanna Madan - Medicine
Now here is something important. As I learned the hard way, doing research is very different from reading about it. Reading a paper could take, say 45 minutes, but the paper itself could easily contain years of work. What I’m getting at here is that producing good scientific research is rigorous and requires resilience, which is something you’ll have the opportunity to develop. So don’t feel distraught if you are struggling? in fact, you’re supposed to, or you’re not learning! ... Devising effective strategies for treating cancer requires elucidating molecular mechanisms through which the disease initiates and spreads. A critical step for doing so is distinguishing driver mutations from passenger mutations, the former contributing to tumorigenesis while the latter, though abundant, being nonfunctional . . . An accurate statistical model, balancing computational intensity and accuracy, was developed for the evaluation of mutual exclusivity between driver genes in the human genome across twelve cancer types. With this model, driver genes were identified for each biological pathway and a novel algorithmic strategy based on the previous mutual exclusivity algorithm was devised to evaluate relationships between pathways. Read more...
By Graelin Mandel - Social Science
During interpersonal interaction, humans utilize complex language (Hari & Kujala, 2007). Humans utilize such language to cooperate, compete, imitate, help, inform, question, negotiate, bargain, lie, and vote. Until about 20 years ago, much of this communication was conducted in-person or through telephones. However, digital communication within the past 20 years has continued to rise, thus replacing these forms of interaction (Williams, 1977). Emerging adults, who report texting as their dominant daily mode of communication, comprise the largest proportion of texting and instant messaging users. 63% of these emerging adults report exchanging text messages every day, in stark contrast to the 35% of emerging adults who report engaging in face-to-face interaction outside the classroom and the 14% of emerging adults who report speaking to their friends on a landline (PewResearchCenter, 2012). Thus, communication amongst adolescents and early adults has increasingly become digital and text-based. Yet, only face-to-face socialization enables communicators to practice nonverbal cues, such as a smile, head nod, a lean toward the conversational partner, and a hand gesture, which have been found to build feelings and commitment within a relationship (Gonzaga et al., 2001). Read more...
By Emily McDermott - Biology and Medicine
Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said, “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.” It was a tenant of my high school research program, one which resonates with me deeply. This was one of many mantras instilled in me by that all-star teacher, Ms. Zeitlin. I learned the importance of looking beyond the journal, the lab bench, and the next deadline in scientific research . . . I sought to investigate how generalist strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae withstand mutation compared to specialist strains. I wanted to explore how the genetic robustness of environmentally robust strains compared with that of non-environmentally robust strains. Is there a relationship between environmental and genetic robustness, and, if so, how is that relationship defined? Multiple replicates of a chemical mutagenesis experiment would be carried out for this investigation, though it would be unclear what mutations occurred, until a model with confidence was achieved and genome-wide sequencing carried out. Read more...
By Clarence Nakano - Chemistry
For visualizing the simulated electron-transfer (ET) dynamics with enhanced depth perception, I further built an immersive visualization system using a commodity virtual-reality platform and a game engine. My immersive simulation results reveal novel nonequilibrium phase transitions with which Shewanella efficiently responds to a change in its electrochemical environment. These results shed useful light on boosting the efficiency of Shewanella-based microbial fuel cells by increasing the ET rate, in order to produce electricity and water from sewage toward solving the global energy and environmental problems. Read more...
By Brian Oh - Chemistry and Biology
Ever since I was little, my parents have constantly taken me to the Museum of Natural History in New York City. As soon as I rushed through the old wooden doors of the building, I rushed past the dinosaurs, down the stairs, and ran down the hallway to find myself standing in front of the gigantic blue whale. Marine creatures have always inspired me; they’re always out of sight, yet so fascinating . . . Rising sea level, in conjunction with climate change, has the potential to lead to significant societal disruption over the next century. With the global mean rate of increase in relative sea level (RSL) at 1.7 mm/yr, which is predicted to accelerate to 3.88 mm/yr over the last decade of the 21st century, can lead to destructive effects- not only the obvious harms such as flooding. In fact, saltwater intrusion is a large implication for contamination of sources of drinking water; irrigation is thus also potentially affected, with large amounts of farmland becoming useless as RSL increases (Hartig, Kolker, Mushacke, & Fallon, 2002; Rice, Hong, & Shen, 2012). Further understanding of RSL is therefore required for improved preparation and mitigation strategies for potential consequences of increased RSL (Shepard et al., 2012). Read more...
By Akshata Rudrapatna - Chemistry and Medicine
A progressively neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s disease presents a serious emotional and physical cost to patients and their families today. In industrialized countries, the increasing overall age of the population creates a large group of people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, so it is imperative that a cure is developed soon. However, new treatments are often too large in size to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and thus do not localize to regions of the brain well. Nanoparticles offer one potential solution to this problem. The extremely small size and high targeting accuracy of nanoparticle vectors allow them to deliver therapeutic molecules to a treatment site without compromising surrounding tissue . . . In this project, solvated models of the cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) capsid were developed to identify its possible therapeutic values in Alzheimer’s disease. Using molecular dynamics simulations, the CPMV capsid proteins were shown to interact with a combination of tight-junction protein ZO-2 (a BBB protein) and vimentin (a protein found in Alzheimer’s plaques); a combination of tight-junction protein ZO-2, vimentin, occludin, and vinculin (two other BBB proteins); vimentin alone; and a combination of vimentin and beta-amyloid (another protein found in Alzheimer’s plaques), without overheating the systems. A Ramachandran plot and contact maps were used respectively to verify the secondary structure of the CPMV capsid proteins and location of interactions within the molecular systems. Read more...
By Sashrika Saini - Molecular Biology
Researching is worlds apart from any other kind of learning. It is a process of self-discovery and trial and error . . . I learned very quickly that everything is not black in white. There is too much grey in the entirety of it. You may not always know if you are going in the right direction. Therefore, the best thing to do is embrace the grey, think out of the box, and take a chance. Science is indebted to imagination . . . A significant amount of scientific research has been devoted to discover a cure for diabetes; however, no treatments have been completely successful. One of the most debilitating aspects of diabetes comes from a condition known as insulin resistance. With this condition, the body does not utilize the hormone properly. Ongoing research has shown positive results in locating defects in the signaling pathways in cells. Specifically, transmembrane proteins that interact with extracellular macromolecules are the roots of the issue. In adipocytes, connective fat tissue, tyrosine kinases are the receptors that play the largest part in transporting insulin into the cell. Read more...
By Mehtaab Sawhney - Mathematics
It is actually impossible to explain my experience in math research without beginning with my experience in math contests. As a relatively accomplished contestant over my high school years, including participating the United States of America Junior Mathematical Olympiad (USAJMO) and twice in United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), I fell in love with the mathematics and the often slick and beautiful solutions in these contests. However math contest can be incredibly deceiving as in most serious mathematics the necessary background knowledge can be quite cumbersome for high school students. Research in analytic number theory, my mentor once joked requires a PhD to understand. But in modern mathematics there is at least one notable exception, combinatorics. Read more...
By Tanay Wakhare - Mathematics
Since my freshman year of high school, when I became increasingly bored with school math, I would look up things on my own which interested me. More than that, I would play around with them. Continued fractions? Sounds interesting - now let's try and see if I can derive a closed form if I vary the parameters this way. Sums involving the harmonic number? Let's see if I can generalize them with another parameter. Of course, I didn't find anything truly interesting for a very long time - I would find out that what I'd done had been done two hundred years ago, in a much simpler way. But eventually, I hit gold - and it turned into this very project. I knew absolutely nothing about number theory when I started - I was working with polynomial roots at first, and only later did I realize I was staring at functions I'd seen in number theory. Read more...
By Joshua Yue - Chemistry
I began researching how mutations occur within cells. I focused on using computational chemistry techniques to advance the study of cancer prevention by analyzing protein kinases for therapeutics. I chose to study the NF-kappaB protein family because dysregulation of the NF-kappaB pathway has been linked to various cancers and autoimmune diseases. After reading literature about the protein family, I discovered that the NF-kappaB pathway is composed of two paths. I learned that, while the classical pathway is well-known, the alternative pathway is not. NIK, the NF-kappaB Inducing Kinase, plays a central role in this pathway, so I decided to employ molecular dynamics simulations to study NIK. I chose to use molecular dynamics simulations since they enhance the ability to analyze NIK at the molecular level, which offers important insight into its structure-behavior properties. Read more...





University of Chicago
Professor David Mazziotti
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