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ADA Foundation honors high school research

Los Angeles—The ADA Foundation honored three high school students at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Science fairs want your help

Interested in judging a science fair?

Each year, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair hosts the largest pre-college celebration of science. More than 1,600 high school students from 60 countries participate in the event.

According to Dr. Mike Huey, an endodontist in Bremerton, Wash., science fairs at the local and state level are universally in need of volunteers.

“For members of the ADA, the best fit may be judging projects or mentoring during the execution of students’ projects,” said Dr. Huey, president and head judge of the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair. “This doesn't preclude volunteering in other areas such as scientific review, organization and everything else pertaining to the operation of a nonprofit organization.”

Dr. Huey got involved in science fair judging 14 years ago when a friend recruited him simply by saying, “Let’s go judge at the science fair” in Bremerton. He’s been judging ever since and in 2010 was recognized with the ADA Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Science Fair Program Support and Promotion.

This year, participation at the Washington state fair was up 40 percent, but he said it’s hard to tell if that’s a trend. He credited the WSSEF volunteers with their outreach efforts to the Washington Science Teachers Association, home school associations and visits to individual schools for the increased involvement and hopes it will continue for 2012.

For dentists interested in becoming a science fair judge, Dr. Huey recommends talking to the local school districts in their area first to see what the need is.

Dentists, especially, are prime candidates to mentor students.

“Dentistry needs to step up and start mentoring students in oral health,” he said. “What a dentist can do is offer their professional experience and research experience in helping students in formulating hypotheses and coming up with good models for the projects.”

Mentoring helps the students prepare, he added, and teaches them the kind of questions they’ll be receiving during the judging stages of their own projects. Most mentors agree that the most rewarding part of mentoring is when they see the students’ faces light up when they put all the pieces of the puzzle together and understand a new discovery or concept.

Dr. Huey says the time commitment for a judge is usually two days for local, regional and state science fairs if they are affiliated with the Society for Science and the Public which models its fairs after the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

For more information, visit Intel's education Web page.

Grand judges must hold a M.D. or Ph.D. in one of the 17 scientific categories or have a minimum of six years of professional work experience in their respective category, including dentistry.

Taking first place was Sabrina Bouchard, 17, of Sherbrooke, Quebec, who received a $2,000 prize for “BI032 Inhibition of the ATPase Activity of the Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Protein by Human Lactoferrin.”

Because the current antiviral therapy used to treat hepatitis C is only 50 percent effective, Ms. Bouchard said she was inspired to identify a natural compound that could potentially inhibit an essential viral protein directly involved in hepatitis C virus replication. To do this, she tested how natural compounds, including lactoferrin, tea, turmeric and blueberry extract, affected the ATPase activity of the non-structural 3 protein (NS3), a peptide responsible for HCV replication. She found that lactoferrin decreased the NS3 ATPase activity, ultimately giving her a better understanding of how lactoferrin might inhibit HCV replication.

“Receiving this award was for me a symbol of accomplishment,” wrote Ms. Bouchard, who plans to study medicine at McGill University in Toronto. “To receive this from an organization as prestigious as the ADAF confirms that every minute I spent on my project building something significant is appreciated. It makes a real difference in my scientific path to be rewarded by the ADA Foundation and to have received its financial support.”

For the third year in a row, Shannon Somer Stockton of Orlando, Fla., was recognized by the Foundation. Ms. Stockton, 17, received $1,000 for “ME001 Effects of Nanoparticles and NSAIDs on Sp Protein and Survivin Expression after Radiation in Head and Neck Cancer.”

Rounding out the ADAF award recipients was Arun Brendan Dutta of Crozet, Va. Mr. Dutta, 17, received $500 for “Genetic Targets in HPV-Induced Cancers.”

Each year, the ADAF sponsors three awards and supplies judges for student projects that contribute to scientific research relevant to oral health at Intel ISEF as a way of stimulating interest in oral health research and recognizing the work of young scientists.

“The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair represents the beginning of a natural progression in research that the ADAF enthusiastically supports,” said Dr. David Whiston, president, ADA Foundation. “Research is one of the four pillars of the Foundation's Mission, along with Charitable Assistance, Access to Care and Education. By recognizing these young scientists we certainly hope to encourage their continued interest in research activities.”

This year, Dr. Whiston appointed Dr. Sheila Strock, senior manager of interprofessional relations, Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations, and Helen Ristic, Ph.D., director of scientific information, of the ADA to serve as judges.

The Intel ISEF is held each May and is the world's largest pre-college celebration of science, bringing together more than 1,600 high school students from 60 countries. The 2012 Intel ISEF will be held May 13-18 in Pittsburgh.

For more information, visit www.societyforscience.org/isef/.

For more information about the ADAF, visit www.adafoundation.org.

Image: Sabrina Bouchard, Shannon Somer Stockton and Arun Brendan Dutton pose during the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Winners: From left, Sabrina Bouchard, 17, of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, Shannon Somer Stockton, Orlando, Fla., and Arun Brendan Dutta, Crozet, Va., pose during the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The students were honored by the ADA Foundation.