Yifan Li to compete for award money at March conference
Senior Yifan Li was recognized as a finalist in the national Intel Science Talent Search (STS) competition on Wednesday. Li will present his research project to a panel of scientists at the Intel Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C. during a week-long conference in March to compete for the $100,000 first-place award.
Li was ecstatic upon learning that the Intel Foundation had named him a finalist in the competition. "My initial reaction, which lasted a good two or three minutes, was total shock," he said. "It was a very happy moment for me."
Li was one of 40 finalists selected from a pool of 300 semifinalists to compete from March 11 - 17, according to the Society for Science and the Public (SSP) web site. He is one of 15 Intel semifinalists from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) - 12 from Blair and one each from Wootton, Richard Montgomery and Whitman high schools.
Li will receive an Intel-powered laptop computer and at least $7,500 in scholarship money. He has the chance to win additional prize money, including a $100,000 four-year college scholarship, based on his performance at the conference.
Li began his eight-week research project, titled "Differentiation of Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells into Retinal Pigment Epithelium Cells in Culture," in the Magnet program's Senior Research Project (SRP) class under the guidance of research coordinators Elizabeth Duval and Susan Ragan. "I basically took stem cells and exposed them to various conditions to make them turn into a kind of eye cell, which would be great for possible transplantation as a cure for certain forms of blindness," he said.
Li conferred with Dr. Lijin Dong, his mentor at the National Eye Institute (NEI), before deciding on a topic to investigate. "The National Eye Institute has always had interests in blindness, and I've considered stem cells a vast pool of potential for medical application," Li said. "It was pretty lucky that I managed to get a lab working on stem cells." Dong and Dr. Pinghu Liu, both scientists at the NEI, assisted Li with his labs and research paper.
Li plans to practice and refine his presentation in the weeks leading up to the March competition. "I want to make sure I know my project, its implications and all the background regarding retinal development inside out so I can field any question with confidence and accuracy," he said. "Frankly, I'm surprised I've gotten even this far…but now that I have, there's nowhere to aim but the top."
Lauren Kestner. Lauren Kestner loves Trader Joe's chocolates, cheesy television soap operas, summer trips to Lake Anna, coffee ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, hikes at Northwest Branch and shopping at Heritage. Playing soccer for Blair or her MSC club team and running at the gym consumes much ... More »