After the earthquake in Japan last year, some members of the Three Village community showed their support by and by . Anna Sato decided she wanted to help, too.
The disaster led Sato to return to her work on water filtration – for which she and a classmate in 2010 – but this time with a different spin. Whereas last year's project focused on bacteria and virus removal, she decided to tackle the filtering of radioactive isotopes from water, a realistic problem the nation of Japan faces following the damage sustained by the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
This year, her research has garnered her a coveted honor – she is one of 40 students nationwide, and one of only five on Long Island, to be named an Intel Science Talent Search finalist.
"When I saw that the earthquake and tsunami caused so much damage, I thought, 'Is there something I can do with what I have, with my science and research experience? Is there some way I can tie it in to try to help?'" Sato said in a recent interview with Patch.
Sato, 17, used stable isotopes of cesium and iodine as models for the radioactive isotopes, conducting a project called "A Novel Adsorptive Filtration Approach for the Removal of Radioactive Isotopes of Iodine and Cesium from Water." According to her test results, the new filtration membrane she developed "has superior capabilities for contaminant removal...making it especially applicable for household usage with gravity as the pressure source." It is also "cost-effective and environmentally benign."
In March, Sato will head to Washington, D.C., to present her project to a panel of scientific judges, meet with noted scientists, and compete for the top prize of $100,000.
Mentored by Stony Brook University's Ran Wang and professors Benjamin Hsiao and Benjamin Chu, Sato was also a 2011 Siemens regional semifinalist. She was a participant in the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University.
Of the 40 Intel finalists, eight of them were mentored by Stony Brook University faculty members.
"The vast opportunities provided by our faculty researchers in mentoring budding young scientists exceeds that of any university in the nation," SBU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement. "For Stony Brook University to account for twenty percent of the nation’s mentored students is a testament to the quality of research, education and discovery happening at Stony Brook every day."
Sato is a student in Ward Melville's InSTAR program, which has yielded over $1 million in scholarship awards to its students and more than $125,000 in grants to the school itself since the program's inception in 1998. The program produced nine Intel semifinalists in its first year, hitting a peak of 13 Intel semifinalists in 2007-08.