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Student researchers win top STS awards.

Student researchers win top STS awards

Inspired by a high school course on fractal geometery, Ashley Melia Reiter, 17, captured first place this week in the 50th annual Westinghouse Science Talent Search. A senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, Reither won a $40,000 scholarship for finding the dimensions of fractals generated by Pascal's triangle and its higher analogs.

Denis Alexandrovich Lazarev, 17, overcame a special obstacle to win second place in the competition, which is sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Corp. and administered by Science Service, Inc. When the Soviet-born teenager and his family emigrated to the United States two years ago, he knew fewer than 300 words in English. But a strong interest in biology prompted the youth to visit Columbia University, where a genetics researcher agreed to work with him after school. Lazarev, who attends Elmwood Park (N.J.) Memorial Junior-Senior H.S., won a $30,000 scholarship for investigating mechanisms by which ASF, a regulatory protein, helps control gene expression. He says his work may eventually lead to a method for preventing or treating certain genetic diseases.

Third-place winner William Ching, 17, from Riverdale Country School in New York City, landed a $20,000 scholarship. A talented computer programmer, Ching got his first taste of basic research while writing software for a university biomedical laboratory. Ching stayed on in the lab to learn neurobiology -- an experience that led to his discovery that optic nerves contain a chemical receptor known as GABA-B. He also found that a related chemical boosts nerve conduction in vitro and shows potential for treating spinal injury and multiple scierosis.

The winners were among 40 finalists who visited Washington, D.C., for the last stage of the competition, which initially drew 1,573 entries. A panel of researchers judged the students on their creativity and scientific potential. During their five-day stay, the finalists exhibited their work to the public.

Scholarships of $15,000 went to fourth-place winner Dean Ramsey Chung of Mountain Lakes (N.J.) H.S., who studied combinatorial geometry; fifth-place winner Ciamac Moallemi of Benjamin Cardozo H.S. in New York City, who developed a neural-network-based computer system to aid in diagnosing bladder cancer; and sixth-place winner Tess Lorrell Walters of San Gabriel H.S. in San Dimas, Calif., who not only synthesized certain enzyme inhibitors found in snake venom and designed a more potent class of these inhibitors, but also verified that they lower blood pressure in animals.

The judges awarded four scholarships of $10,000. Seventh-place winner Debby Ann Lin of Stuyvesant H.S. in New York City won hers for discovering an evolutionary link between a tick virus and certain strains of influenza virus. Eighth-place winner Yves Jude Jeanty of Stuyvesant identified telltale changes in cytoskeletal proteins that may indicate the ability of cells to move away after one collides with another. Ninth-place winner Jim Way Cheung of the Bronx H.S. of Science in New York City designed a computer program to test a new hypothesis in classical number theory. Determining how accurately a particular numerical model could simulate a climate phenomenon called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation earned a tenth-place win for Rageshree Ramachandran of Rio Americano H.S. in Sacramento, Calif. The remaining 30 finalists each won a $1,000 scholarship.

At Monday's awards dinner, President Bush said of the finalists: "All have created research projects which show how the trailbazers of today can be the heroes of tomorrow."
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Title Annotation:Westinghouse Science Talent Search
Author:Cowen, Ron
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 9, 1991
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