Science Prodigy: Intel ISEF Award
Tara Adiseshan, 14, was one of three persons selected from 1,563 young scientists from 56 countries for the top spots of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2009. Each received a $50,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation. A Siliconeer report.
(Above): Tara Adiseshan, 14, of Charlottesville, Va., explains her research that identified and classified the evolutionary relationships between sweat bees and the nematodes (microscopic worms) that live inside them, which won her top honors at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2009.
The Intel Foundation May 15 announced top winners of the world’s largest pre-college science fair, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair — Intel ISEF — a program of Society for Science & the Public. Tara Adiseshan, 14, of Charlottesville, Va.; Li Boynton, 17, of Houston; and Olivia Schwob, 16, of Boston were selected from 1,563 young scientists from 56 countries, regions and territories for their commitment to innovation and science. Each received a $50,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation.
Tara Adiseshan set out to solve an evolutionary puzzle when she conducted her research on the long-term relationship between sweat bees and nematodes (microscopic worms) that live inside them. Specifically, the 14-year-old junior at Ramana Academy, Charlottesville, Va., hypothesized that sweat bees and nemotodes, which demonstrate a symbiotic relationship, had been undergoing cospeciation, the process of evolving in response to and in concert with each other, since ancient times.
By examining genetic material from multiple species of sweat bees that host nematodes, Adiseshan was able to construct a phylogenetic tree for the bees and then compare the data with an existing phylogenetic tree for nematodes. The comparison of the congruent phylogenies showed clear evidence of co-cladogenesis, supporting the theory that the relationship between sweat bees and nematodes is ancient, with speciation events in the hosts resulting in speciation events in the symbiotes.
Adiseshan’s work provides a greater understanding of these organisms, as well as additional insight into evolutionary history.
(Above): Li Boynton, 17, of Houston; Tara Adiseshan, 14, of Charlottesville, Va.; and Olivia Schwob, 16, of Boston won top honors for their commitment to innovation and science at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2009. They each won a $50,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation.
Li Boynton developed a biosensor from bioluminescent bacteria (a living organism that gives off light) to detect the presence of contaminants in public water. Li’s biosensor is cheaper and easier to use than current biosensors, and she hopes it can be used in developing countries to reduce water toxicity.
Olivia Schwob isolated a gene that can be used to improve the intelligence of a worm. The results could help us better understand how humans learn and even prevent, treat and cure mental disabilities in the future.
“The real end point of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is to elevate the recognition of achievement of the younger generation in academic and learning exercises,” said Intel chairman Craig Barrett. “I hope that more young people will look at these students and realize they can be recognized for using their brains. You don’t have to be a quarterback, a basketball player or a baseball player to be recognized by your peers and the public.”
In addition to the three $50,000 top winners, more than 500 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair participants received scholarships and prizes for their groundbreaking work. Intel awards included 19 “Best of Category” winners who each received a $5,000 scholarship and a new laptop.