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A harvest of scientific talent.

A harvest of scientific talent

Among the cream of the scientific crop chosen this week in the 45th annual Westinghouse Science Talent Search were Wendy Kay Chung and Wei-Jing Zhu, who tied for first place. Chung, a student at Miami (Fla.) Killian Senior H.S., found that Caribbean fruit flies are most likely to lay their eggs in guava fruit when the fruit has reached a specific degree of ripeness. She suspects that the flies may be attracted to or repelled by a chemical in the fruit. Chung says such a repellent chemical may offer a safe alternative to the currently used insecticide, which will be banned in five years.

Zhu, a student at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Technical H.S., was chosen for extending a famous mathematical problem to include complex numbers. He determined the number of ways and the conditions under which a number can be expressed as the sum of the squares of other numbers. Chung and Zhu each won $20,000 scholarships. This is only the second time there has been a tie for first place since the Talent Search began in 1942.

The fruits of Yoriko Saito's labors were third place and a $15,000 scholarship. Saito, a student at Homewood (Ala.) H.S., used soil-dwelling bacteria that normally cause tumors in tomato plants to change the plants' genetic structure, with the goal of making them more resistant to disease, drought and herbicide.

The winners of fourth through sixth places received $10,000 each. A study of how a solution of suspended particles could be used with long-wavelength laser light in an optical switch won fourth place for George Jer-Chi Juang, a student at Benjamin N. Cardozo H.S. in Bayside, N.Y. In fifth place, Anh Tuan Nguyen-Huynh of Cleveland, a student at University H.S. in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, discovered that vitamin C and magnesium inhibit the binding of an antischizophrenic drug to receptors in the brain. This means that the common laboratory practice of using vitamin C as an antioxidant in tests of such drugs could be distorting the results, he says. Sixth place went to Jessica Louise Boklan of East Hills, N.Y., a student at Roslyn H.S. in Roslyn Heights. In just two weeks, she found a way to generate all reversal products for two to four digits. A reversal product occurs when the product of two numbers equals the product of the numbers' mirror images; for example: 13 X 93 = 31 X X 39.

William Edward Bies, a student at Mount Lebanon H.S. in Pittsburgh, modeled on a computer the formation of galaxies for seventh place. Glastonbury (Conn.) H.S. student Mary Elizabeth Meyerand built a machine, for which she has a patent pending, that generates electricity from the difference in water pressure under crests and peaks of ocean waves. In ninth place, Andrew Lawrence Feig, who studies at University H.S. in Los Angeles, produced antibodies that bind to portions of a protein thought to play a key role in a childhood cancer. For tenth place, Allen Wallis Ingling, at Buckeye Valley H.S. in Delaware, Ohio, engineered a computer-controlled device for testing color blindness. Each of these students received $7,500.

The remaining 30 national finalists each were given $1,000 awards. Jung-Pu Lin of Elmhurst, N.Y., and Todd Harrison Rider of North Little Rock, Ark., were named as alternates to the top 10.

This is the first time that high school students born in Asia or of Asian parentage have won all of the top five scholarships of the Talent Search. According to Dorothy Schriver, assistant director of Science Service, Inc., which administers the Talent Search, this year's entries were oriented much more toward molecular biology and applied sciences than in the past. The projects have also been getting more sophisticated, she says. "In the early days we had some beautiful collections of butterflies, fossils and things," notes Schriver, who will step down as program director of the Talent Search after 45 years with it. "Now the students tend to do much more pure research."
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Title Annotation:Westinghouse Science Talent Search
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 8, 1986
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