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Six Ward Melville Students Named Intel Semifinalists

Two were also top Siemens competitors last November.

Of the 300 students across the nation named as semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, 57 are from Long Island and six are from – the most of any Long Island school district – according to results released Wednesday by the Society for Science.

Seniors Nevin Daniel, Kevin Chen, John Kelly, Aditi Malhotra, Jordan McHugh, and Ilana Scandariato were among 1,744 students who entered the competition.

Caitlin Sullivan, program manager for the Intel Science Talent Search, said not only do the competition's evaluators consider the quality, creativity and scope of the students' research reports, but they also look for well-roundedness, all-around academic achievement and recommendations from scientists and teachers.

"The semifinalists this year submitted research that continued to impress our evaluators," Sullivan said. "In recent years we have seen an increasing number of projects creatively pushing the limits of science by completing research that spans the distance between multiple subject areas."

The six Ward Melville students are part of the school's InSTAR program, led by Dr. George Baldo, which exposes students to different areas of science and pairs them with professional mentors at universities and laboratories like Stony Brook and Brookhaven National Lab for elite research projects. After Baldo formally launched InSTAR in 1998, it produced nine Intel semifinalists that school year and hit a peak of 13 Intel semifinalists in 2007-08.

"Certainly the kids have worked extremely hard," Baldo said. "I’m very proud of all of them, even the ones that didn’t get recognized by Intel."

Stony Brook University faculty members were responsible for mentoring 32 of the semifinalists, including students from New York, California, Virginia, Florida, and Connecticut. Sixteen were from the university's Simons Summer Research Program.

"This is a remarkable testimony of our faculty and staff and speaks volumes about their commitment to research and education at every stage of academic development,” university president Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement.

Daniel, who in the national Siemens-Westinghouse science competition, entered the same project, in which he created a new cancer drug which targets specific cancer cells and applies a high amount of active chemotherapeutic to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Chen, who was named a regional Siemens finalist, studied fruit fly genetics and discovered that two separate fruit fly gene systems communicate and control the development of embryos – a discovery which he also found to be applicable in human genetics.

Kelly used mathematical reasoning in his study of high energy particle collisions, finding evidence of a fundamental violation of physical law with implications for the study of matter and antimatter.

Malhotra's project focused on obesity, exploring whether having a high body mass index causes enlargement of the left atrium in the heart and subsequently leads to atrial fibrillation or other conditions.

McHugh used diffusion tensor imaging to compare the brains of healthy people and people who suffer from dystonia, a disorder which causes involuntary contraction and spasm of the muscles, and found brain abnormalities which can potentially be used in the treatment of the disorder.

Scandariato studied children's relationships with their mothers, establishing a valid procedure based on the use of guide words in measuring relationship security in children between the ages of 10 and 12.

The students now await the announcement of the 40 finalists, expected Jan. 26. Finalists receive a $5,000 scholarship and new computer, and will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete for ten finalist prizes.

Joe Braun February 01, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Ward Melville can brag about having the most Intel finalist every year but i bet if other schools had a Stony Brook University and Brookhaven labs, plus the kids all do projects that are in their parents field (a little parental help of course), Ward Melville would not have the most if any on long island.
Lenny G February 01, 2011 at 05:56 PM
I find it fascinating that students at the high school level, Ward Melville or any other high school, are researching subjects and breaking new ground in such complex and important areas like cancer research, particle physics, brain function, and other medical areas. Kudos and congratulations to the students, mentors, and institutions for their hard work and dedication. Physical location of Ward Melville to some of the best academic and research facilities available of course helps logistically in their success, but perseverance, dedication, empathy and compassion are much more important factors. Always nice to see hard evidence of my ultra high 3 Village property taxes bearing some important fruit. Keep up the good work !
Saus February 19, 2011 at 04:42 AM
@Joe Braun It's really convenient for us to be in close proximity to Stony Brook University, but I do disagree that just because a high school is located next to a research university, every year kids would do phenomenal research. And... speaking from experience,... My parents didn't drive me or help me in my project, they had work (unrelated to university research. So how did I get to Stony Brook? Bike everyday and take public transportation, as well as somehow get myself to the lab most days. I think it's really the dedication of kids at WM that make our school successful. Sure the distance helps, but that's not all. Plus, I also think article wise, every news media gives attention to the students (which being one myself felt nice) but our mentors and/or grad students are really the impetus for all this research. If not for them, there would be no young aspiring scientists.


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