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Stony Brook's Intel 8: SBU Mentors Intel Finalists from all over United States
Eight of the nation's 40 Intel Finalists mentored at SBU

Anna Sato with SBU mentors Dr. Benjamin Chu (left) and Dr. Benjamin Hsiao.

STONY BROOK, NY, January 25, 2012 – Stony Brook University has mentored a record eight of the 40 high school students chosen as finalists in the prestigious 2012 Intel Science Talent Searchwhich accounts for twenty percent of the nation’s total. Five of the students are from Long Island, two are from California and one is from Michigan.
The eight Stony Brook-mentored finalists participated in summer research at Stony Brook in 2011 through the Simons Summer Research Program (five students), the Garcia Center: Polymers at Engineered Interfaces Summer Research Program (two students) or independently (one student), where they worked in Stony Brook University labs under the direction of Stony Brook faculty members and graduate students.

“The vast opportunities provided by our faculty researchers in mentoring budding young scientists exceeds that of any university in the nation,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President, Stony Brook University. “For Stony Brook University to account for twenty percent of the nation’s mentored students is a testament to the quality of research, education and discovery happening at Stony Brook every day.”

The eight students and their Stony Brook University mentors are:

• Juliana Coraor, Huntington High School, Huntington, NY, who worked with  Dr. Matthew Dawber  in Physics & Astronomy on The Impact of Compressive Misfit Strain on Improper Ferroelectricity in Lead Titanate/Strontium Titanate Super Lattices. (Simons Summer Research Program)

• Rachel Davis, Smithtown HS East, St. James, NY, who worked with  Dr. Miriam Rafailovich  in Materials Science & Engineering on Engineering Biodegradable Flame Retardant Polymers. (Garcia Center Summer Research Program)

• Savina Kim, Commack High School, Commack, NY, who worked with  Dr. David Talmage in Pharmacological Sciences and  Dr. Lorna Role in Neurology and Behavior on Cognitive Deficits in Neuropsychiatric Disorders. (Simons Summer Research Program)

Neil Mehta, Jericho High School, Jericho, NY, who worked with  Dr. David Talmage in Pharmacological Sciences and  Dr. Lorna Role in Neurology and Behavior on Co-Restoration of Type III Nrg1 Back Signaling through Depolarization: Implications for Schizophrenia. (Independent summer research)

Dr. Futcher

• Jin Pan, Henry Gunn Sr. HS, Palo Alto, CA, who worked with  Dr. Bruce Futcher in Molecular Genetics & Microbiology on A Novel Protein Translation Kinetics Model Supports the Ribosomal Pause Theory. (Simons Summer Research Program)

• Anna Sato, Ward Melville High School/*InSTAR, East Setauket, NY, who worked with  Dr. Benjamin Hsiao and  Dr. Benjamin Chu in Chemistry on A Novel Adsorptive Filtration Approach for the Removal of Radioactive Isotopes of Iodine and Cesium from Water. (Simons Summer Research Program)

• Nithin Tumma, Port Huron N. HS, Port Huron, MI, who worked with  Dr. Berhane Ghebrehiwet in Medicineon Elucidating Pathways in Cancer Pathogenesis: Establishment of Interaction Between TGF-b/Ras Pathways and Identification of gC1qR as an Oncoprotein. (Simons Summer Research Program)

• Alissa Zhang, Saratoga HS, Saratoga, CA, who worked with  Dr. Miriam Rafailovich in Materials Science & Engineering on Molecular Fingerprinting of Glucose with Raman and SERS for Noninvasive Diabetes Monitoring. (Garcia Center Summer Research Program)

Two weeks ago, it was announced that 30 of the 300 Intel semifinalists nationwide were mentored at Stony Brook University, bringing the total to 358 semifinalists mentored by Stony Brook faculty members since 1997. (See related: Mentored at Stony Brook, Intel semifinalist Samantha Garvey is in the national spotlight) Additionally, 43 Intel finalists have been mentored at Stony Brook since 1997.
These finalists will head to Washington D.C. on March 8 for a week-long event where they will have an opportunity to compete for a share of $630,000 in awards, with the top winner receiving $100,000 from the Intel Foundation. Students will undergo a rigorous judging process and meet with national leaders. Top winners will be announced at a black-tie gala awards ceremony at the National Building Museum on March 13.

The Media Relations Office spoke with Stony Brook's Intel finalist mentors and asked them to provide their impressions of the Intel finalists and their research. Below are some of the insights that the SBU mentors shared about their students:  

Dr. Benjamin Hsiao and Dr. BenjaminChu (pictured above) discuss Intel finalist, Anna Sato: Anna chose to work with us on a challenging project, the development of a novel class of cellulose membranes to remove radioactive iodine and cesium from water. This research idea originated from her passion, as she wants to help the earthquake and tsunami victims who suffered from the recent Fukushima nuclear plant explosion in Japan (she has family there). Since removing heavy ions from water is relatively new to us, we do not have much experience and all the proper equipment for it.  However, Anna was quite determined.  She did extensive literature search, designed the experiment with two distinct adsorption mechanisms for cesium and iodine due to their different chemical natures, and carried out the experiments at nearby laboratories.  Anna was also very resilient.  When she was measuring the iodine in solution using ultraviolet visible spectroscopy, she could not get consistent measurements since the concentration was so low.  She worked day and night on the same measurement, and eventually found the source of the measurement errors.  Anna was very independent, trying to figure out the reasons behind problems by herself, but was also able to determine exactly when she needed to seek help.  The results she acquired through her hard work were very interesting and exciting, and will likely lead to a scientific publication.  We are extremely impressed by her determination, resilience and independence, and we are very proud of her accomplishments. Her project was partially supported by an award from the Academy of Applied Science’s Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP).

Dr. Miriam Rafailovich

Dr. Miriam Rafailovich discusses Intel finalists, Rachel Davis and Alissa Zhang: Rachel is passionate about fire prevention technologies as her family’s home burned to the ground five years ago. She looked up the research in our laboratory and discovered our program on development of flame retardant polymers. Even though she knew nothing about polymers when she first joined, she instinctively knew that she had found her interest. Before the program started she accompanied us to the BCC conference on flame retardant polymers to learn what is being done in the field. There she met with representatives from Supresta, a company from Ardsley, New York, and a subsidiary, of Israel Chemical Ltd., who were interested in the development of new flame-retardant additives, which were environmentally safer than those currently being produced. For her Intel project, she worked together with SBU graduate students Kai Yang and Shang He, and SBU undergraduate, Matthew Ross, on the application of the ICL compounds to the development of flame-retardant polymers for heat exchange units in home heating boilers specially outfitted to handle corrosive biodiesel fuels. This second project is a collaboration between Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Stony Brook Advanced Energy Center, sponsored by NYSERDA. 

Alyssa Zhang from Saratoga, California, conducted her research in the Garcia Center Program and continued after she returned to her home town in the bay area. Alyssa was one of 10 students from California participating in summer research at the Garcia Center. 

Dr. Matthew Dawber

Dr. Matthew Dawber discusses Intel finalist, Juliana Coraor: I first met Juliana as a student in my Classical Physics Honors Class, which she was taking while still a high school junior at Huntington High School through Stony Brook University’s Young Scholars Program. This class is a highly demanding class which selects the best 25 incoming students at Stony Brook from amongst our physics and math majors and the Honors college. Despite being by far the youngest student in the class, Juli was also the best student, and harnessed her enthusiasm for the subject to produce excellent performances in every aspect of the course. From the very beginning of the course it was clear that Juli was interested in going beyond the standard topics covered. She expressed an interest in learning about x-ray diffraction and condensed matter physics, so we began meeting every couple of weeks to discuss these topics. I was overjoyed when she applied to the Simons Summer Research Program and asked me if she could do a project with me. The problem Juli tackled is an extension of a discovery that I was part of a few years ago, which was that at interfaces in artificially layered structures where the layers are only a few atoms thick, which we call superlattices, a new form of ferroelectric ordering, improper ferroelectricity, occurred. This is a special example of how nano-engineering of materials can lead to enhanced functional properties, with numerous potential applications in various kinds of electronic devices. In the semester before her project, Juli delved into the literature around this topic and came up with a very interesting set of experiments. Her idea was that we would study the effect of both pressure and epitaxial strain on the materials, and she came up with specific plans for how we could do this. The full scope of her ideas were too much be realized in one summer, and the pressure experiments will be performed in the future at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratory; she did an excellent job of measuring the effect of epitaxial strain on improper ferroelectricity. In doing this she mastered advanced materials fabrication techniques and became an expert on using x-ray diffraction for material characterization, both in my lab and at the NSLS. Despite juggling many courses, both at her high school and at Stony Brook, Juli still comes to our lab frequently and attends our department colloquium. Juli is fantastic to work with and I see she will have a very bright future in scientific research. 

Dr. Berhane Ghebrehiwet

Dr. Berhane Ghebrehiwet discusses Intel finalist Nithin Tumma: Nithin's strength and thrill was computational biology. Therefore when he came to work in my laboratory, I challenged him with the task of identifying the structural domains on gC1qR, (a molecule our laboratory has been working on for a number of years) that allow it to interact with a plethora of pathogenic ligands including an  HIV-1 protein called gp41. Using the known crystal structure of gC1qR, Nithin used in silico computational analysis to identify the precise  gp41 binding site on gC1qR. The relevance of this discovery is as follows. During the first phase of HIV infection, the immune system is broken down because CD4+ T cells are killed due to viral load. However, during the second phase of HIV pathogenesis, it is not the infected cells that are destroyed, but rather the uninfected  DCD4+ cells. The mechanism of this was not known until recently. During the late phase of HIV infection, gp41 released from the virus, binds to gC1qR on CD4+ T cells to induce the expression of a "death signal" called NKp44L. This "death" molecule in turn is recognized by Natural Killer or NK cells through which they destroy the uninfected, NKp44 expressing CD4+ cells.  Because molecules that inhibit the interaction between gp41 and gC1qR can potentially prevent the expression  of NKp44, this observation may in the log term, lead to the development of peptide-based or antibody-based therapeutic modalities. 

Savina Kim with Dr. Lorna Role and Dr. David Talmage.

Dr. David Talmage discusses Intel finalists Savina Kim and Neil Mehta, mentored at Stony Brook by himself and Dr. Lorna Role: First, I would like to express my admiration of Savina Kim and Neil Mehta for their amazing dedication and work ethic. They have been inspiring to watch over that last one-plus years. Second, I want to emphasize the extent to which each of them drove their research - these are two independent young scientists; they formulated and executed their projects on their own with minimal input from me and Dr Role. The final point I would like to make, is that the talent of the local high school students (with Savina and Neil representing the top) is incredible and that this, and the incredible system for nurturing and maturing this young talent pool that is part of the Stony Brook University culture, were an unanticipated bonus when we joined the faculty here approximately four years ago. 

Dr. Simon Halegoua, Director, Center for Nervous System Disorders: Stony Brook University has been making a big push toward establishing multidisciplinary, collaborative groups for biomedical research. The Center for Nervous System Disorders was the first of such efforts on campus. Two Intel finalists (Savina KimNeil Mehta) emerging from the collaborative group of Dr. Lorna Role and Dr. David Talmage within the context of our Center is a testament to this approach. These students benefited not only from this collaborative pair of labs, but also from participating in Center-wide weekly meetings and interaction with numerous investigators working from different viewpoints, making for a very stimulating environment.