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2013 Intel Science Talent All-Stars

intel white house

Biofuels, new ways to detect breast cancer, and computer algorithms that help robots avoid obstacles are among the research projects that netted 10 high school seniors top honors in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search.

Launched in 1942, the Talent Search remains the nation’s most prestigious science and engineering research competition. (Alumni have gone on to win seven Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, five National Medals of Science, 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and even an Oscar for Best Actress – Natalie Portman for Best Actress in “Black Swan.”)

This year, some 40 finalists from 20 states vied for $630,000 in awards. The group, honored at the White House on March 12, was equally split between male and female and winnowed from a field of 1,712 applicants and 300 semifinalists. Nearly one-third of the finalists came from California and New York schools.

intel sara volzSara Volz, 17, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won the top award of $100,000 for her research on converting algae into sustainable, renewable biofuels. Algae produces oil but turning it into fuel can be costly. Volz, who built a home lab under her loft bed and sleeps on the same light cycle as her algae, used artificial selection to establish populations of algae cells with high oil content, which are essential for an economically
feasible biofuel.

Second-place honors and a $75,000 award went to Jonah Kallenbach, 17, of Ambler, Pa., whose Intel jonah Kallenbachbioinformatics study breaks new ground in predicting protein binding for drug therapy. Kallenbach’s work suggests a new path to drug design by targeting a protein’s disordered regions and may open doors to treatment for such diseases as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and tuberculosis.

intel adam bowmanThird-place honors and $50,000 went to Adam Bowman, 17, of Brentwood, Tenn., who successfully designed and built a compact and inexpensive, low-energy, pulsed plasma device. Typical plasma sources are large, complicated and expensive. Using his inexpensive technology, Bowman believes plasma research can now be conducted in small-scale operations and even high school labs.

In addition to the prize money, participants in the Talent Search and Intel Science and Engineering Fair will receive digital badges. Some states also are moving in this direction, hoping to encourage students to become lifelong learners by acknowledging accomplishments outside of the classroom.

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