Blair's three Intel finalists

Feb. 15, 2002, midnight | By Jeremy Hoffman Nora Toiv | 18 years, 11 months ago

The Intel Science Talent Search recognizes students across the country for their work on extensive research projects. Montgomery Blair had 17 semifinalists out of 300 in the country and 3 out of 40 finalists, putting Blair first in the country (see related story, "Blair leads country in Intel finalists" - link below, left). The three Blair finalists, all Magnet seniors, are Jennifer Alyono, Jacob Burnim, and Jean Li. They face off against their 37 competitors (read about them here) during the week of March 6 for a top prize of a $100,000 scholarship.

Jennifer Alyono

Jennifer Alyono is a 17-year-old senior magnet with what looks to be a very promising career in science. She entered the Intel Science and Technology talent search back in November and was picked as a semifinalist in December. Over the semester break she received a phone call telling her she had been picked as a finalist. Alyono was suprised. "I didn't even think I would be picked as a semifinalist," chuckles Alyono.

Alyono says her project's title "explains it all." It is: Development of an Electrochemical Biosensor for Phospholipase C Based on Supported Hybrid Lipid Bilayer Membranes. According to Alyono biosensors detect biological molecules which is useful in medical programs, bio-warfare, and life science. The purpose of her project is to discover a new way of sensing these bio-molecules. She picked as her mentor, John Elliot, a biotechnology specialist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Alyono credits Blair's high number of finalists to the magnet. "I think we have a great program and our school is full of hard working, inspiring people," she says. In March she will attend the Science Talent Institute to present her project and compete for the $100,000 prize.

Jacob Burnim

Unlike most magnets, Jacob Burnim worked on his senior research project for two summers instead of only the summer after junior year. When Burnim was a sophomore, Dr. Ellenbogen of Mitre Corp. asked Jonetta Russell, the magnet research teacher, to find a student interested in a two-year internship. Burnim volunteered because of his interest in science, which he partially attributes to reading science fiction.

Burnim's project, entitled "On the Scaling of Electronic Charge-storing Memory Down to the Size of Molecules," involved mostly theoretical work. He explains that although computers and miniaturization technology keep improving, the fields will plateau in about fifteen years. Current technology uses the storage of electrons to hold data, and the laws of quantum physics prevent the handling of electrons past a certain scale.

The solution is nanotechnology: the manipulation of matter at the atomic scale. Burnim compares the transition from modern electronics to nano-electronics to "putting a penny into a grain of sand." Dr. Ellenbogen, with his team of high school, college, and graduate students, seeks to construct a computer using biological molecules. The result would be 20,000 times smaller than currently existing computers. "We could put computers anywhere," says Burnim.

Burnim applied early action to Harvard and was accepted. He hasn't decided whether he wants to go to Harvard. "I'm thinking about going to a more tech school," he says, his top choice being MIT.

Burnim plans to return to Mitre Corp for one more summer. His recommendation to upcoming researchers is, "Make sure you choose something you're interested in. You're going to work on this for a long time."

Jean Li

When Jean Li came home from shopping that fateful day with her friends, she found a message waiting for her. The first thought that came to her mind was that "it was a prank."

But it wasn't a prank, and on January 31, Li became one of the forty Intel finalists from around the country. "It was pretty cool," she said.

The paper Li wrote, "Chemical Origins of Extraterrestrial Organic Macromolecules in Carbonaceous Chondritic Meteorites" details how she explored the origin of the carbon on the surfaces of meteorites.

Li worked with her mentor, Dr. George Cody, for ten weeks over the summer between her junior and senior year at the Carnegie Institute of Washington. Li began her work during the school year, however. She started her initial reading of her Earth and Space Sciences topic in April. "There was lots of reading," said Li.

And in the end, all the reading paid off. Li will present her project and compete for the $100,000 prize at the Science Talent Institute in March.

Li will be attending Columbia University, but she also hopes to get a chance to work over the next summer at one of two NASA sites, or at the University of Hawaii and in trying to further her studies about meteorites.

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Jeremy Hoffman. Jeremy Hoffman serves his second year on <i>Silver Chips Online</i> as the System Administrator. Following in the footsteps of Robert Day and Joe Howley, he'll be writing the code that makes the online paper work. Jeremy was born in D.C. and raised in Bethesda. His … More »

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