Three from Flushing named Intel Science semifinalists

Reynaldo Lopez of Townsend Harris High School (c.) talks with Townsend Harris Assistant Principal Susan Brustein (l.) and his teacher, Katherine Cooper (r.). Related story on Page 25. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Stephen Stirling

A Townsend Harris High School student and a trio of Flushing science whizzes from the Bronx High School of Science were among a dozen Queens students named as semi−finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, one of the oldest and most prestigious science research competitions in the country.

The four high school seniors — Reynaldo Lopez of Townsend Harris and Josepher Li, Hafsa Nomani and Shrefeth Sonkiya of Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan — were among 300 semi−finalists selected from more than 1,600 applicants in the competition, which annually judges research projects covering a range of scientific and mathematical topics.

Three other Queens students from Bronx Science — Timi Chu of Bayside, Michael Kaplan of Floral Park and David Schuster of Forest Hills — were also selected along with five others from the borough — Charles Choi, Daniel Jeng, Gayatri Malhotra, Anissa Mak and Jenny Zhang — who are at Stuyvesant.

The topics covered by the students in their projects are far from simple.

Lopez, an Island Park, L.I., resident, spent hours studying and comparing mathematical correlations within Earth’s galaxy.

“It’s a study that nobody else has conducted and we were able to do pretty well with. My adviser [George Tremburger] actually didn’t want me to look into it at first. He said he didn’t think there was going to be anything there,” Lopez said. “It was just a gut feeling. I just wanted to examine it. We didn’t really expect much at first, but he supported me and it actually turned out really well.”

Li, a Flushing resident and senior at Stuyvesant, meanwhile, used fruit flies to analyze the cellular signaling pathways activated by what is known as The Unfolded Protein Response.

“This pathway has become an area of interest because of its connection with a wide range of degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, diabetes and certain forms of blindness,” Li said.

Li said through research and experimentation he was able to improve upon the existing UPR and successfully prevent the progression of disease.

Li credits the faculty of Bronx Science with bolstering his love of chemical engineering, something he hopes to study beginning next year at either the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Stanford University.

“What really attracts me to science is knowing that there’s always more to learn and something new to discover,” Li said. “I also think the amazing science teachers I’ve had in high school are much responsible for gauging my interest in the sciences.”

Lopez, captain of Townsend Harris’ FIRST Robotics Team, said he is hoping to embark on a career in astrophysics or aerospace engineering.

“I guess my love of science really developed starting freshman year,” Lopez said. “I started noticing that science was my favorite subject. Now, most of my interests and activities are based around science.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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