Intel Science Talent Search's Top 40: High School Researchers to Present Work in Washington, D.C

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Forty young, limber brains have made it to the final phase of the nation's oldest science competition for high school seniors, the Intel Science Talent Search. In March, the finalists will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will spend a week presenting their original research to national leaders, top scientists and the public. Intel and Society for Science & the Public will announce the top award winner, who will take home $100,000, on March 15 during a black-tie gala held at the National Building Museum. Finalists will vie for a total of $630,000 in awards.

This year's competitors hail from 15 states. For the first time in the history of the event, more of them come from California than New York.

Finalists' research topics cover a wide range of disciplines. This year's student projects include a new kind of highly efficient solar cell, a therapy that relies on ultraviolet light to fight autoimmune disease, a study of how air pollution can cause lung inflammation and robots that incorporate emotion to smooth interactions with humans.

The finalists "exemplify the promise of young people to bring creativity and innovation to bear to create a better world," says Elizabeth Marincola, publisher of Science News and president of Society for Science & the Public, which has operated the Science Talent Search since 1942. "We applaud their hard work and creativity, and look forward to their continued contributions to human advancement."

The 40 students selected were winnowed from 300 semifinalists, who were chosen from a pool of 1,744 entrants. These math, engineering and science achievers join a select group of scientific luminaries: Past finalists have earned seven Nobel Prizes and four National Medals of Science. Physicist and Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow was a finalist in 1950; in 1980 Harvard University string theorist Lisa Randall was selected. Actress Natalie Portman was a semifinalist in 1999.

Last year, Erika DeBenedictis of Albuquerque, N.M., nabbed the Intel Science Talent Search's top award for her research on spacecraft navigation. DeBenedictis' study pointed out transit routes through the solar system that would reduce a spacecraft's fuel consumption.

THE FINALISTS

ARIZONA Scott Boisvert, Chandler, Basha High School

CALIFORNIA Amol Aggarwal, Saratoga, Saratoga High School; Xiaoyu Cao,

San Diego, Torrey Pines High School; Bonnie Lei, Walnut, Walnut High School; Jonathan Li, Laguna Niguel, St. …