Two Students are Intel Science Search Finalists

January 25, 2006
Two Montgomery Blair High School seniors have been named finalists in the 65th Intel Science Talent Search. They are among 40 national finalists in the talent search, in which high school students entered papers on their independent research projects in all disciplines of science.

Blair had 12 semifinalists in the competition, tying with a school in East Setauket, N.Y., for the largest number of Intel semifinalists in the nation.

The finalists will attend the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C., on March 9-14, where they will participate in a final judging process and share in $530,000 in scholarships, including a top prize of $100,000.

The Blair finalists and their projects are:

Minh-Phuong Huynh-Le: Toward Understanding the Global Carbon Cycle: The Response of Soil Organic Matter to Changes in Forest Density and Flora. For her chemistry project, Huynh-Le studied the response of soil organic matter (a virtual reservoir of carbon) to changes in forest density and flora. Huynh-Le wondered if forest ecosystem management practices, such as thinning, could have a significant impact on the flux of carbon in the global carbon cycle. She conducted analyses to characterize soil organic matter and directly assess any differences, but she found none. She concluded that forest cultivation efforts may not change organic matter respiration, at least over a several-year time frame. Huynh-Le is on the varsity swim team at Blair, enjoys fencing, and is an accomplished violinist.

Yuan (Chelsea) Zhang: Oxidized LDL Metabolites Upregulate Expression of the Adhesion Molecule CX3CL1 in Primary Coronary Artery Smooth Muscle Cells. Zhang’s project in the category of medicine and health studied the molecular mechanisms behind atherosclerosis, or arterial plaque buildup, a disease in which lipid-laden macrophages (fat-filled white blood cells) build up in the vessel wall. The cell-adhesion chemokine molecule CX3CL1 has been implicated in the process. Zhang demonstrated that the adhesion of macrophages to arterial muscle cells was largely CX3CL1-dependent and that components of oxidized lipids increased its expression. She believes targeting the upregulation of CX3CL1 by oxidized lipids could yield drug treatments for atherosclerosis. Zhang has earned numerous awards in writing, science and math, is managing features editor of the school newspaper Silver Chips and is co-president of the computer team.

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