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This article is from the In-Depth Report Baby Nobels: Meet the 2009 Intel Finalists
60-Second Science

The Baby Nobels

SciAm.com met up with the 40 finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search, considered the "Super Bowl" of science. Christie Nicholson reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast. Please note that this special podcast is double the length of our usual one-minute podcasts.]

So check this out: "Hi my name is Adi Rajagopalan, I'm going on 18 in a few days, and my project was Modelling Synergistic Cellulolytic-Hemicellulolytic Enzyme Complexes for Lignocellulosic Hydrolysis."

And this: "Hi my name is Christine Shrock, I'm 18 and my project is Effects of Lid Dynamics on the Binding of MDM2 to the Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 with Implications for Cancer Therapeutics."

Now does that sound like any science fair project you created? Yeah me neither. But these two bright young students are finalists in the pinnacle of all science fairs, the Intel Science Talent Search, sometimes referred to as the “baby nobels,” where 40 of America’s brightest scientific talents were chosen from more than 1,600 high school applicants.

Intel and the Society for Science and the Public, rewarded finalists with a trip to D.C., where they presented their projects at the National Academy of Sciences, and yesterday, discussed the importance of math and science in a meeting with President Obama.

Since its launch as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, in 1942, finalist alumni have won seven Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, three National Medals of Science and ten MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. 

So let’s translate those two projects mentioned earlier.

Here’s Adi’s again, "Modelling Synergistic Cellulolytic-Hemicellulolytic Enzyme Complexes for Lignocellulosic Hydrolysis,"  Which means,"I basically built mathematical models which helped us reduce the cost of a type of alternative energy called cellulosic ethanol."

And here’s Christine’s: "Effects of Lid Dynamics on the Binding of MDM2 to the Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 with Implications for Cancer Therapeutics," and this translates to, "just changing the shape of a little part of a molecule to help cure cancer."

Simple right? Uh yeah.

Tonight at a black tie gala award ceremony at the Mellon Auditorium the best of the best will be awarded nearly a half a million dollars in scholarships and prizes, including the grand prize of $100,000. Stay tuned, results will be posted on SciAm.com.

—Christie Nicholson

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