MAILED: May 26, 2000
The winners of this year's Wisconsin Science Talent Search, which is headquartered at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, have been announced.
Awards were presented in two categories: institutional and independent. The institutional category consisted of work done as part of a larger project at a university or research lab, while the independent category included projects conducted in students' high school science labs or the basements of their homes, for example.
In the institutional category, Ian Coe, Madison, was awarded first place and Jonathan Raff, Fox Point, was awarded second place. Nikolas Bohne, River Hills, and Aaron Wallander, Valders, tied for first place in the independent category.
Three other Wisconsin entries received certificates of participation: Laura Dries, Wauwatosa; Nathanael Kindseth, Shawano; and Andrey Mamontov, La Valle.
A panel of UW-Eau Claire professors judged the entries based on originality, significance, independence, complexity of techniques, comprehension, science potential and writing skills. Each of the winning participants received a gift certificate to Border's Books & Music and a certificate of participation.
Coe attended James Madison Memorial High School. The title of his entry was "Proton Decay via the p to e+ gamma Decay Mode in Confirmation of Grand Unified Theories." His project involved writing a piece of a much larger computer program that analyzes nuclear collision decay data from the Super-Kamiokande detector. The work was done during a six-week summer research program at Boston University. If his search through the enormous amount of data had discovered the type of decay for which he was looking, it would have disproved several different grand unification theories. No candidates were found. Nevertheless, his work showed that it is possible to set a lower limit on a partial lifetime of the proton to a very high confidence level. His mentor was Dr. Kate Scholberg, research associate at Boston University.
Raff attended Nicolet High School. The title of his entry was "Cortisol Dynamics in Aging Men and Women: Correlation of Diurnal Rhythm and Bone Mineral Density." His project involved studying the connection between salivary cortisol, stress levels and bone mineral density. This is an important area of study, especially because osteoporosis (a loss of bone mineral density) is a common malady among the elderly. He helped develop a noninvasive sampling technique using saliva to show that the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the patients were correlated inversely with bone mineral density. He concluded that an increase in cortisol in the elderly was an indication of a loss of bone mineral density. His project supervisor was Edmund H. Duthie, M.D., chief and professor of geriatrics, at the Medical College of Wisconsin VA Medical Center.
Bohne also attended Nicolet High School. The title of his entry was "Acoustic Resonance Spectroscopy." In his basement he built and tested a system that acoustically analyzes the chemical concentrations of substances. The main advantage of his system over the optical systems presently in use is that there is no need for dilution of the concentration of the substance to be tested. Also, testing can be done on chemicals inside sealed containers, which limits the exposure of industrial workers to potentially hazardous situations. He attempted to demonstrate that he could identify several samples of antifreeze, NaCl, and several different nitrates. His project supervisor was his high school science instructor, Ronald C. LeMay.
Wallander attended Valders High School. The title of his entry was "Sexing of Bovine Spermatozoa via Mass Induced Motility Difference as Verified by Hoechst 33342 Fluorescence." He developed a new and inexpensive procedure using a fluorescent dye and a homemade observation container to separate male and female sperm cells using their different weights and swimming speeds. The sperm cells with an X chromosome are more massive than those with Y chromosomes and are not able to swim as fast or as far in the same time. By collecting the sperm that traveled the farthest, he could determine relatively reliably that these sperm contained a larger concentration of Y chromosomes. His project supervisor was James Evans, one of his high school science instructors.
Dries attended Divine Savior Holy Angels High School. The title of her entry was "The Subconscious Discrimination of Teenage Girls Against the Unattractive." She attempted to show that teenage girls subconsciously discriminate against unattractive people through a series of surveys that she distributed at her school and then analyzed. Her project supervisor was her school's science department chairperson, Betty Jo Azpell.
Kindseth attended Shawano Community High School. The title of his entry was "The Neutronal Theory of Gravity: Electrostatics and Dynamics of Elementary Particles and Their Interactions in Search of the Solution to the 'Riddle of Gravitation.'" He developed and presented his ideas on a new theory, attempting to explain some interesting ambiguities and inconsistencies in present theories concerning gravitation. His project supervisor was his high school physics and math teacher, David Stuewer.
Mamontov attended Reedsburg Area High School. The title of his entry was "New Way to Look at Indetermined Equations." He developed a logical system to determine a way to solve some of the Diophantie equations. His project supervisor was Brandt Werner, his high school math teacher.
The participants also competed nationally in the Intel Science Talent Search (formerly the Westinghouse Science Talent Search). Their projects were among a total of 1517 entries that represented 530 high schools in 49 states. Coe, Raff and Wallander, who were named semifinalists and among the top 300 entrants in the national competition, each received a $1000 prize. In addition, each of the 178 schools that placed a semifinalist in the competition was awarded $1000 per semifinalist to be used in support of the school's science and math education programs. Intel also awarded $1.25 million in scholarships and equipment to the top 40 finalists and their schools. The national competition is America's oldest and most highly regarded science contest for high school seniors.
The Intel and Wisconsin Science Talent Searches take place each year. The application deadline for the next talent search is Friday, Dec. 1. More information can be found on the Web at http://www.sciserv.org.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: May 26, 2000