The 2005-2006 Science Talent Search

 

(This 775th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on February 5, 2006.)

 

Last week the results of the 2005-2006 Intel Science Talent Search (STS) were announced by Science Service, the publishers of Science News. For us locally they represent a mix of good news and bad.

 

Consider first what STS is. It is our national science contest with high school students submitting projects that are judged by experts in the various science fields. Now in its 65th year, this is easily the most prestigious science competition in this country. Past Finalists have gone on to win Nobel prizes and other illustrious awards.

This year 1558 students representing 486 high schools entered the competition.

 

Each of the 300 students named a Semifinalist wins a $1000 scholarship and an equal amount goes to the student's school. The 40 Finalists will attend the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D. C. from March 9-14. There they will present their projects to judges and the public and will share $530,000 in scholarships.

 

That is not all. These students are highly recruited by colleges and the scholarships they are awarded by those institutions amount to additional millions of dollars.

 

Now consider the good news.

 

As always, New York State students did extremely well: 136 of the 300 Semifinalists are from our state as 13 of the 40 Finalists. Match these statistics against the two states with larger populations: California has 23 Semifinalists and 3 Finalists; Texas 18 and 1.

 

More good news: Young women have often been underrepresented in science achievement. This year they make up a commendable 42.5 percent of Semifinalists.

 

But there is bad news as well. Indeed New York State did well, but only five of those 136 Semifinalists and none of the Finalists are from Upstate, that is more than 50 miles north of New York City.

 

Those five included two from the Albany area, two from Rochester suburbs and one from Dewitt near Syracuse. None were from the Niagara Frontier.

 

I find this situation unfortunate at best. If this region is to establish itself as an educational center, surely it should do better. We have top research scientists here at our colleges and in our industries. If we could associate a few of these scholars with interested high school students, we could set some of these youngsters on a course to a career in science.

 

Of course, most of the projects have lockjaw technical titles like Fort Lauderdale, Florida student Andrew Gordon's "Hysteresis in Magnetically Susceptible Nanoparticles to Alter Intracellular Events and Affect Atherosclerotic Plaque Behavior," but others represent a wide range of research topics and look very interesting to me.

 

Consider these, for example:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craig Barrett, chairman of competition sponsor Intel Corporation, has it right when he says, "While as a nation we continue to struggle to improve science and math education, these students give us hope for our future."

We should get more local youngsters into this loop.-- Gerry Rising