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Brooklyn Whiz Kids Impress In Intel Science Talent Search

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They’re runners-up and that’s not bad! Although no students from Brooklyn reached the final round of the Intel Science Talent Search competition, several local teens made it to the semifinals, which was good enough for them. “I was really ecstatic and surprised,” Elina Melamed, a resident of Coney Island and student at Midwood High School, said of her placing. For many of Brooklyn’s semifinalists, their biggest accomplishment was spending more than a year researching their projects and then writing comprehensive reports. “I wanted to win but then I started going to lab and I realized how hard it was. I was just happy that I had the experience. I wasn’t expecting to win,” said Midwood High School student and Bensonhurst resident Kerry Li. “Just submitting the paper was really, really something to gloat about. I was just glad I finished,” said Midwood resident Issac Dweck, a student at Edward R. Murrow High School. “It’s not the most important thing to win. My mentor, the night before I found out that I got in the semifinals, he said some inspiring words, ‘It’s not the most important thing and you should know that the biggest and most important part of your achievement is already over. You already accomplished the biggest part…by writing the paper,’” recalled Midwood High School’s Michael Vishnevetsky, who lives in Coney Island. To participate in the Intel contest, which was open to high school seniors around the country, students sometimes spent seven days a week working in laboratories under the guidance of scientists, doctors or college professors. After devoting 12 to 18 months to researching their projects in fields such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, social sciences and biology, students submitted detailed papers about their findings. For their hard work, all 300 semifinalists throughout the country will receive $1,000 college scholarships. And each semifinalist’s high school has already accepted a $1,000 check to support science and math programs. Joining Melamed, Li, Dweck and Vishnevetsky in the semifinal round were three other Brooklynites – Olga Zverovich of Brooklyn Technical High School, Chiara Guardo of Edward R. Murrow High School, and Denis Dankin of James Madison High School. It was an overwhelming love of science that led these teens to participate in the Intel program. “When I got into Murrow, I was in this science research program and this Intel competition was basically the conclusion of it. So I was sort of destined to do it from freshman year,” Dweck said. For Li, it was her father who encouraged her to enter the time-consuming contest. “I knew about the Intel program before I went to high school. I was interested in it because my dad knew about it,” she said. “I became even more interested in it because I want to be a doctor but I also wanted to try research.” Once committed to the program, Li’s mother made sure her daughter remained focused on her project, entitled, “Determination of Functional Domains of a Platelet Cell Adhesion Molecule by Site-directed Mutagenesis.” When spending late nights at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, “Sometimes I would leave the lab at midnight and my mom would be there to pick me up. After failed experiments, my mom would be there to cheer me up. There were times when I wanted to quit because it was so hard and frustrating but my mom was there to tell me to try again,” Li said. Through her work, Li, who hopes to study biochemistry or neuroscience at Columbia University, discovered the importance of exercising patience. For Dweck, “I learned that I have a lot of endurance,” he said. Even more importantly, by spending countless hours researching his project on why people choose one option over another at Columbia University, he became familiar with the ins and outs of a college library. “I already know my way around,” he said. This is sure to serve him well in the fall, when he hopes to study applied mathematics or chemistry at Harvard University or the University of Chicago. Melamed entered the Intel competition for the chance to try something new and explore an interesting topic rarely covered in science classes. Using Brooklyn College’s resources, “I studied child skeleton remains from Serbia. The skeletons came from a Roman cemetery from the first to sixth century. I analyzed child remains to see if I could determine if they had iron deficiency anemia. I attempted to link that to a number of other conditions, [such as] dental pathologies,” explained the CUNY Honors College-bound student. The challenging Intel competition was nothing new to Vishnevetsky. Last year, he was named one of three winners of the Nobel Prize Essay Contest, for which he earned an all-expenses paid trip to Stockholm, Sweden. Planning to become a doctor, Vishnevetsky worked with a physician at SUNY Downstate Medical Center to develop a protein agent that kills cancer cells for his Intel project. Although he took top honors in the Nobel Prize contest, Vishnevetsky entered the Intel competition not to earn first place but to delve deeper into his favorite subject – science. “I felt passionately about the work and I enjoyed it,” he said. “I wasn’t very set on winning,” he added. “It’s not about winning the awards. It’s about the experience and the experience was great.”

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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