- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

Smart, they are. Smart alecks, they are not.
Yesterday, 40 of the best and brightest senior high school science students from across the United States and Guam competed in the Intel Science Talent Search for prizes including new computers and $530,000 in college scholarships.
The 15 girls and 25 boys stood in front of small booths in the lobby of the National Academy of Sciences on Constitution Avenue and discussed their projects, which had mind-boggling titles like "On Generators of Zero-dimensional Homogeneous Gorenstein Ideals" and "Model of Light-affected Coupling in Oscillators of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus."
The students, however, were able to translate their projects into everyday language for visitors.
The latter project, for instance, may spell the end of jet lag. Albert W. Leung, 17, a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., says coupling two pieces of the brain with a pill may help people adjust more quickly to moving from daytime to nighttime working hours, or to crossing time zones.
"I've been very interested in genetic and molecular biologies my whole life," said Ophelia Shalini Venturelli, 18, a senior at Walt Whitman High School, one of the talent search's four high school finalists from Montgomery County.
The parents of Miss Venturelli, who lives across the road from Walt Whitman, are college professors. Although she wants a career in medicine and biomedical research, Miss Venturelli has other interests, too. Besides being a member of the science and math clubs, she is on the track team, loves horseback riding, has played the violin since she was 4, speaks Italian and Hindi and has a special fondness for 19th-century English literature.
The other Montgomery County contestants are seniors at Montgomery Blair, a magnet high school. They are:
Jacob Samuels Burnim, 18, of Wheaton, whose studies might lead to making computer memory storage 20,000 times smaller while slowing the speed only 100 times. He founded Montgomery Blair's computer club, likes to play basketball, repairs computers and reads science fiction. His father, Ira, is a lawyer; his mother, Elizabeth, teaches law at the University of Baltimore.
Jennifer Christy Alyono, 17, of Potomac, whose engineering study would simplify detection of biological molecules, could help in diagnosing and treating diseases. At Blair, she plays volleyball and tennis and dives on the swim team. She plays the piano and violin, sings in the school and her church choirs and reads Chinese as well as Spanish. Miss Alyono wants to become a doctor like her parents, David and Mary.
Jean Li, 18, of Potomac, examined a theory that sugarlike molecules recently found in meteorites meant that formaldehyde, rather than hydrocarbons, began the creation of the solar system. At Blair, Miss Li is on the varsity lacrosse team, is senior coordinator of the mentoring program and speaks fluent Chinese. Born in China, she is the daughter of Dr. Shaohai Li and Li Li.
In 1942, the nonprofit Science Service began the search for the nation's best high school scientists. Since then, about $4.5 million in scholarships have been awarded to 3,000 high school students. Five of those winners went on to become Nobel Laureates, 10 became MacArthur Foundation Fellows and three were National Medal of Science winners.
In 1998, Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., was named the title sponsor of the Science Talent Search. The Intel Foundation grant of $1.25 million includes $600,000 for the semifinalists and their schools.
A $100,000 college scholarship will be awarded to the winning high school student; $75,000 for the runner-up; $50,000 for third place; $25,000 for fourth through sixth place; and $20,000 for seventh through 10th-place.
The remaining 30 seniors each will receive $5,000 scholarships. Each student also will be given a high-performance computer.


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