Student Places Third in Intel Science Search

March 17, 2003
Montgomery Blair High School senior Anatoly Preygel’s research on knot theory won him third place in the nation in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition.

In a March 11 awards ceremony for the 62nd annual Intel Science Talent Search, Preygel was awarded a $50,000 college scholarship.

A senior in Montgomery Blair’s Science, Math, Computer Science Magnet program, Preygel won the award for his mathematics project, “Computation of Quandle Cocyle Knot Invariants.” The project reported on his study of knot theory, which examines closed curves in three-dimensional space.

Preygel’s research investigated some aspects of the recently introduced quandle cocycle knot invariants. He addressed the hard question of when two knots are the same (isotopic). Using “quandle coloring,” he gave a new invariant, “degree,” and showed how to compute it. He also linked degree to the bridge number of the knot.

The study of mathematical knot theory is the subject of increasing academic interest because of possible applications in physics, chemistry and genetics.

Preygel competed with 39 other national finalists who traveled to Washington, D.C., March 6-11 to attend the Science Talent Institute. Intel awarded a total of more than $500,000 in college scholarships. Preygel was the only Maryland finalist in the competition. Montgomery County Public Schools had 14 of the state’s 18 semifinalists12 from Montgomery Blair High School and one each from Walt Whitman and Thomas S. Wootton high schools.

At Blair, Preygel is active in science and math clubs and works as a system administrator. He has received numerous math and computer programming awards as well as the Rensselaer Science and Math Medal. Born in Moldova, he reads Russian and French fluently. Preygel plans to study math and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to prepare for a career as a professor of mathematics.

The Science Talent Search, America’s oldest science competition, is sponsored by the Intel Corporation, headquartered in Santa Clara, California, in partnership with Science Service, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. Participation in the competition often has served as a precursor to impressive accomplishments in science. Past finalists hold more than 100 of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including five Nobel Prizes and three National Medals of Science. Statistics show that 95 percent of former finalists have pursued a branch of science as their major field of study.

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