By Mlot, Christine
Science News , Vol. 151, No. 5
Advocates of applied science should be encouraged by the crop of 40 high school seniors named as this year's finalists in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. About half of their projects tackled down-to-earth problems, such as groundwater contamination and disposal of used oil.
One student came up with a way to reduce the hazard of industrial fires caused by aluminum dust; another invented a monitor that could help designers improve the efficiency of radio frequency devices like pagers and cellular phones.
Backers of basic science should take heart, too. Fundamental questions in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, the most popular subject, also captured the students'-and the judges'-interest. One student studied the evolution of symbiosis between jellyfish and algae. Another used Schur's theorem to solve a 1980 number theory problem posed by Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos.
"Increasingly, the level of scientific research of the Science Talent Search finalists has grown more sophisticated," says Thomas Peter Bennett, president of Science Service, which administers the competition and publishes Science News.
Princeton University astrophysicist J. Richard Gott heads the panel of 10 scientists, including 1986 Nobel chemistry laureate and Science Service board chairman Dudley R. Herschbach, who will interview the students in Washington, D.C., from March 5 to 10, 1997, to pick the top 10 projects. First prize is a $40,000, 4-year scholarship. A total of $205,000 in scholarships will be awarded to the 40 finalists in a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences.
The finalists were selected from 1,652 entrants in the national scholarship competition, now in its 56th year. The 18 young women and 22 young men come from 35 high schools in 16 states. New York continued to provide the greatest number of entrants and finalists.
The finalists are:
* California: Elizabeth Danhwa Chao, Palo Alto Senior H.S., Palo Alto; Carrie Shilyansky, San Marino H.S., San Marino.
* Colorado: Dylan Micah Schwindt, Montezuma-Cortez H.S., Cortez.
* Florida: William Clive Blodgett, Wellington H.S., West Palm Beach; Emily Beth Levy, North Miami Beach Senior H. …