By Phil Corso
A little curiosity went a long way for two teens from Little Neck and Richmond Hill, who were honored as regional finalists in the nation’s most prestigious high school science competition in Massachusetts earlier this month.
Both seniors at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, Jongyoon Lee, of Little Neck, and Amanpreet Kandola, of Richmond Hill, received the recognition from their original research out of more than 2,000 teens nationwide in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
The students joined with 13 others to compete for the highest science honor awarded to American high school students, according to the Siemens Foundation.
“These students have invested time, energy and talent in tackling challenging scientific research at a young age,” said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation. “The recognition they have won today demonstrates that engagement in STEM is an investment well worth making.”
Both students presented their research to expert university judges at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge the weekend of Nov. 2. Though they did not advance to the national finals, a Siemens Foundation spokeswoman said their achievement comes as a tremendous honor.
Lee, 18, said he submitted mathematics research examining the bound on the number of edges that guarantees cycles of a certain length — which could potentially help increase the efficiency of connections between computers and other networks. After traveling to the United States from South Korea at age 10, Lee said he hoped to major in mathematics and become a mathematician after high school.
“What appeals to me the most is the objectivity of science,” Lee said. “Because of the experiences I have had on the school math team and from research classes, I thought it was a great opportunity to enter into the competition.”
Lee said he was most excited to mingle with other high school students submitting Ph.D.-level research from all over the country.
“These kids are basically doing something no one else has done,” Lee said. “It is intellectually stimulating to be able to compete against these people with my research.”
Kandola, 17, submitted a biochemistry project he said was inspired by his interest in the brain. His research attempted to identify the neurons and circuits relevant to the formation of specific memories in the brain.
“I was mesmerized by how the collection of cells in the brain gives rise to thought and memory and wanted to gain insight into how the brain works,” Kandola said of his studies, which included more than two years of research.
Kandola said his favorite subject in school is computer science, because the material learned in the classroom was applicable to real life. Looking forward, the senior said he hoped to major in biochemistry and computer science.
“Everyone was generally impressed by all the research at the competition,” Kandola said. “Everyone’s projects were very well done. It’s a great competition.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.