15 Girls Among Finalists in Science Talent Search

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 01:11 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Fifteen girls are among the 40 high school finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search contest as they compete in Washington for the $100,000 cash prize and attention that will help them begin promising careers in science.

The fact that so many girls are thriving in the 72-year-old competition, begun by the Society for Science & the Public, is not necessarily surprising, as women have been recognized for their scientific achievements since Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in 1903 for her work in physics and again in 1911 for chemistry, The Washington Post reports.

Since that time, 15 women have won Nobel Prizes for their work in science.

The Post also notes that girls have won the prestigious Society for Science & the Public award in the past, including last year's winner, Sara Volz.

The research among the 2014 finalists includes a project by Kathy Camenzind of San Ramon, Calif., who built optical tweezers that use light from a laser "to trap microscopic particles in all three dimensions to hold them," which can be used in cell manipulation.

While it is not a new discovery, most microscopic tweezers retail for $20,000. Camenzind was able to make a cost-effective version with materials around the lab.

Another of the girls competing, Angela Xiangyue Kong, of San Jose, Calif., looked at the development of mammary stem cells. She was able to show that a specific protein slowed the growth of abnormal cells in mammary tissue, thereby demonstrating how normal cells transform into cancer cells.

The competitors are often mentored by teachers and scientists but "are precluded from publicly acknowledging those mentors to avoid any potential for judging bias."

Intel Corp. began sponsoring the event in 1998, which has enabled the organization to give winners much greater monetary awards.

During their week in Washington, finalists display and present their research at the National Geographic Society, meet leading scientists, tour the nation's capital, and meet distinguished leaders, including President Barack Obama.

Winners will be announced Tuesday at a black-tie event in Washington.

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