Madeleine Zhou, Opinions editor
On March 15, the preliminary round of the Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair was held at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. Approximately 600 students from 120 schools all over Connecticut participated in the fair, including 18 students from Greenwich High School. These students had worked since the beginning of the school year and spent the weeks leading up to the fair writing abstracts and putting together posters that displayed their results. Two days later, 16 students went back as finalists. Beginning at 9 AM on that Thursday, the finalists talked to many judges and answered questions about their work. On March 19, an award ceremony was held for finalists and special award winners, and many Greenwich students took home multiple top awards, including three of the seven available Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) spots. These three spots were taken by juniors Christo Popham, Sanju Sathish, and William Yin. ISEF was held in Phoenix, Arizona from May 8 to May 13.
Popham placed first in the Physical Sciences category for his project titled “Increased Charge Rate and Capacity for Olivine Lithium-Ion Batteries via Efficient, Upcycled Nanoscale Electrodes.” Lithium-ion batteries are used in cellphones and laptops, but they can be problematic when it comes to capacity and safety. Popham worked to improve existing batteries by adapting their silicon anodes, and the batteries he created demonstrated 48% higher specific capacity and 250 times improvement in consistent output.
Sathish’s project placed second in the Pfizer Life Sciences category. His project, entitled “The Optimization of Nanoparticle-based Drug Delivery of Melittin in a Colloidal Suspension as A Selective Method to Target HIV Structural Antigen p24.” Melittin is a membrane-active peptide that can be derived from honey bee venom, and previous studies have shown that melittin can selectively target p24, a structural protein that makes up most of HIV’s viral core. Sathish chose to introduce varying concentrations of melittin to p24 using a Fe3O4-Citric acid nanocarrier in order to observe if the melittin will target p24 and thereby inhibit the replication of HIV. He then performed a p24-based ELISA test that showed that with just 0.05μM concentration of melittin, there was a 20% decline in p24 expression compared to a control group.
Yin’s project placed first in the Alexion Biotechnology category. Entitled “Development of a Portable, Tattoo-Based Biosensor for the Non-Invasive, Low-Cost Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis via Iontophoresis of Macrophage-Targeting Silver Nanoparticles,” he aimed to detect atherosclerosis, also known as the clogging of the arteries with plaque, through electrochemical reaction mechanism. He created a patch that, when placed on top of the carotid bifurcation (located on the neck), releases nanoparticles that can detect plaque. The patch changes color to indicate high levels of plaque.
Apart from the ISEF-qualifiers, other GHS students won big as well. Each category had a five top spots each, and several students placed in these. For example, Michelle Xiong won 5th in Biotechnology, Devyn Zaminski won 4th in Life Sciences, and Teresa Zheng won 4th in Life Sciences. There were also many special awards from a variety of sponsors, such as United Technologies, Energize CT, and UTC Aerospace Systems.
A full list of the projects, students, and abstracts that participated in CSEF can be found on their website at ctsciencefair.org.