The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

National Science Competition Honors WJ’s Finest

If you’ve looked on the WJ homepage recently, you will have noticed the picture of Tingrui Zhao and Annie Lin, who were semifinalists in the very prestigious Siemens National Science Competition. There were a total of 11 semifinalists out of the entire state of Maryland (312 in the nation), and WJ was the only non-magnet county high school with semifinalists in the competition.

 I had the opportunity to speak first-hand with the competitors and found out some interesting details about their projects.

 What is the Siemens National Science Competition?

TZ: The Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology is a national level research competition that recognizes remarkable talent early on. Through this competition, students are given the opportunity to achieve national recognition for science research projects that they complete during high school.

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 How did you enter the competition?

TZ: In December of 2009, I secured an internship with the National Institute of Health, specifically the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. I have been working on a research project ever since then and registered for the competition through their online application system.

AL: Dr. Wang showed it to me. She’s actually the one who got me my internship in the first place, so she’s played a pretty significant role in my achievements, I would say.

 Why did you enter the competition?

TZ: I first heard about this competition a couple years ago when my friend’s sister became a finalist for a project that she worked on. Since I have been working on the research project almost one year already, and I feel as if my performance in a national competition such as the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology would be a good indicator of how far I have advanced and how much I have learned. I have always enjoyed challenging myself.

AL: Dr. Wang and my mentor encouraged me to enter and . . . I also wanted to learn how to write a scientific research paper.

 What did you do to become a semi-finalist?

TZ: For the competition, I was required to submit [a 20-page] research paper. I am unsure of the judging process for the competition, but I feel as if they look for accuracy and how advanced your research is compared to the other applicant’s. My project deals with the analysis of gene expression in aging, and ultimately, determining whether or not a particular enzyme, SIRT-1, controls aging.

AL: I wrote a paper about the research I did at NIH. We were searching for a new drug to treat prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States . . .the basic idea is we screened a series of aromatic compounds and found a new drug that could potentially treat prostate cancer more effectively than what is currently available.

 What was the time commitment like?

TZ: My internship at NIH is every day after school.  Generally, I work about three hours [per] day, which adds up to . . . 15 hours a week. 

AL: I went to NIH every day for three hours after school last year. It was pretty stressful considering I was taking five AP classes (Chemistry, Psychology, BC Calculus, World History, and Lang) on top of that, but I guess it was worth it.

 Who has been your most important inspiration?

TZ: My parents have been the most important inspiration in being the catalysts that sparked my enthusiasm for science. However, my internship mentor Rui-Hong Wang has been the greatest help to me during the course of my research.

AL: Probably my mentor at NIH, Jane Trepel. She’s been really encouraging throughout all my time there and she patiently explains everything to me when I don’t understand what’s going on. Her energy and enthusiasm about the research we’re doing is pretty inspiring, too.

 What’s next on your plate?

TZ: The next competition that I am applying for the Intel Science Talent Search, which is also a national level research competition. It will be extremely exciting for me, because to my knowledge, there are . . . another three or four people from our school that are also applying for the same competition.

AL: The Intel STS Competition is next! The deadline is Nov. 17.

 What do you want to major in?

TZ: I am very certain that I [want to do] pre-medicine in college. I am still uncertain about what I will be majoring in though.

AL: Maybe biology?

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