Terre Haute South, Carmel students advance to national science symposium

March 12 2008

TERRE HAUTE • Swara Kopparty’s seizing of an opportunity netted her a college scholarship and an entry into a national science competition.

“I think it’s a great opportunity and an incentive for people to do research,” she said of the 35th Annual Indiana Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

Kopparty placed first in the symposium, held March 6-8 at Indiana State University, with her research project, “The Nature of Bonding in Metal-Carbonyl Complexes.” Kopparty, a senior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School, won a $2,000 scholarship and a $500 award for her teacher, David Drake, to use for classroom supplies.

“What I do is look at complex computational chemistry and try to find interactions that go in complexes,” Kopparty said about her research. “I try to find what holds them together.”

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) Program promotes original research and experimentation in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics at the high school level and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. The national competition is scheduled for April 30 to May 4 with the winner there receiving a $16,000 scholarship.

Of the 61 students who submitted research papers for the Indiana regional symposium, 22 were chosen to give oral presentations. Twenty-six students presented their research through posters in a separate competition.

Kopparty said she enjoyed the symposium as it exposed her to what kind of research other students were doing.

“I like learning about new things, science and math,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and incentive for people to do research.”

Second place and a $1,500 scholarship went to Mia Chen of Carmel High School for her research entitled, “Kinase suppressor of RAS plays a Critical Role in Modulating Inflammatory Mast Cell Functions.” She also took first place in the poster competition.

Chen’s research delved into what would happen in cancerous tumors if the kinase was deleted.

“It could be a way to treat tumors,” she said.

She began her research last summer after a series of conversations with her mentor at his laboratory. She presented her research at an earlier competition and decided to seek out another.

“It occurred to me these competitions give me a lot of experience and are fun,” she said. “I searched online and came up with this one.”

E.G. Wright, a senior at Terre Haute Vigo South High School, competed in the symposium with his research into developing a treatment for a parasitic bee mite.

“I saw some articles in the newspapers how these parasitic mites were harming the bee population and affecting the crops and the economy,” he said. “Scientists were trying to find treatments for the bees.”

One of his teachers, who has bee hives, let him work with the bees.

“So far, the treatment has been effective in killing mites,” he said. “I’m trying to commercialize the treatment into a product that beekeepers could use.”

Raj Bhuptani, a junior at South High School, attended to support his schoolmates and is considering a research project for next year’s competition.

“It’s always good to see students in America work hard, see the talent that’s out there and to meet people who are similar to you,” he said.

The symposium also earns students recognition for their work.

“Rarely are accolades made for education,” said Rusty Gonser, Indiana symposium director and ISU assistant professor of life sciences. “However, the general public always hears about the stars of athletic competitions. Events like JSHS profile the stars in the academic realm.”

It also leaves an impact upon the students.

“It gives them an opportunity to present to a number of people,” Gonser said. “This gives them recognition for all of their hard work. It also builds confidence.”

Drake agreed with Gonser’s assessment, and said many of the high school students conduct their research at a nearby university, which furthers the students’ education.

“They’re interacting with master’s level students and Ph.D.s,” he said. “It really makes them grow up; it raises their confidence. As a teacher, I consider myself blessed in being able to teach these kids.”

Three other finalists received $1,000 scholarships: Sean Hendricks of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Nyssa Boyd of Eastern High School in Greenntown and Eric Anderson of Marian High School. Students receiving an honorable mention award were: Jessica Jackson of Eastern High School, Stacey Vosters of North Daviess High School, Hannah Scudder of North Daviess High School and Rachel Dalton of Eastern High School.

Poster competition winners were: Chen, first; Hendricks and Hunter Stallman of Marian High School, second (tie); Vosters, fourth; Emily Kerns of Noblesville High School, fifth.

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Contact: Rusty Gonser, Indiana Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium director and Indiana State University assistant professor of life sciences at 812-237-3010 or rgonser@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or jsicking@indstate.edu

Photo: Swara Kopparty

Cutline: Swara Kopparty, a senior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. ISU Photo/Marjorie Loomis

Photo: Mia Chen

Cutline: Mia Chen, a senior at Carmel High School. ISU Photo/Marjorie Loomis

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Story Highlights

Swara Kopparty placed first in the science symposium, held March 6-8 at Indiana State University, with her research project, "The Nature of Bonding in Metal-Carbonyl Complexes." Kopparty, a senior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School, won a $2,000 scholarship and a $500 award for her teacher, David Drake, to use for classroom supplies.

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