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February 11, 2009 > Mission San Jose High student finalist in Intel Science Talent Search

Mission San Jose High student finalist in Intel Science Talent Search

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Courtesy of Marianna Mao

Seventeen year old Marianna Mao did not expect to be a finalist. "I was really surprised," beams the teenager with joy. As the first student from her school to reach the finals, Marianna is among the 40 students nationwide competing to win the "junior Nobel Prize" of high school science competitions. "I did my research on gravitational radiation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specifically under graduate students and a professor at the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics. I spent six weeks there, and continued to work on the project after I got back. I then had to summarize my procedure and results in a 20-page paper, which I submitted for Intel," she said.

The Intel Science Talent Search 2009, a research competition for high school seniors, is a program of the Society for Science & the Public. This year's Intel Science Talent Search Finalists come from 17 states and represent 35 schools. California has 5 finalists, one each from Cupertino, Fresno, Irvine, Menlo Park and Marianna from Fremont." I taught her in 9th grade when she took Calculus class. She is a top math student and will do well in [the] future," said her teacher Bill Jager, who retired last June.

Each year, approximately 1600 students submit their research projects in math and science to the Intel competition. 300 semifinalists are recognized, and semifinalists and the schools they attend receive $1,000 each. 40 finalists are named out of the 300 semifinalists; each finalist receives $5,000 more, a laptop, and an invitation to the Intel Science Talent Institute, where they compete for over $500,000 in scholarships. "Many of the research projects are on the level of graduate student, even PhD research, and address a diverse range of issues- from neuron survival in Parkinson's to free associate algebras," said Mao. "I wanted to participate because the Intel STS is a very prestigious competition, and it affords many new chances to young, eager scientists and mathematicians."

Society for Science & the Public (SSP) supports the country's top young scientific minds and encourages independent research and inquiry-based learning. "The independent research that the finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search 2009 engaged in and their enthusiasm for learning, gives us great hope for the future," said Michele Glidden, Director of Science Education Programs, Society for Science & the Public (SSP), including the Intel Science Talent Search. Alumni of the Science Talent Search have made extraordinary contributions and hold many of the world's most coveted science and math honors including seven Nobel prizes, three National medals of Science, and three Fields Medals. "Our goal is to encourage and inspire the next generation to achieve at this level. The cornerstone of SSP's educational competitions is independent research. It is never too early for a student to begin to work on a problem or question that is of interest and to begin the pursuit of scientific inquiry," added Glidden.

Marianna is busy preparing for the final portion of the competition. "I get to go to Washington, DC for the Intel Science Talent Institute, where I'll spend a week with the other finalists. We'll present our projects to scientific panels and to the public, and we'll compete for more scholarships," she said. "I already know nine of the other finalists from the summer I spent at MIT. We were all students at the Research Science Institute, which is a fantastic (and free) research institution offered to 50 US students and 25 international students every year," she said.

Not sure about her future plans, Marianna says she will likely major in something related to physics or applied math. In her spare time she enjoys cross country, photography, and piano. Marianna's accomplishment is a result of efforts of her and many other peoples, including the teachers and advisors of her school, summer camps, as well as class mates she has been working with in various activities. "As her parents, Lin and I always support Marianna to participate in such competitions as a mile stone to continue her learning," said her father, Chengye Mao.

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