After 9 years of many hopeful attempts from past students, Charlynn Trish Ben ’15, emerged as the only semifinalist in all of Brooklyn for the 2015 Intel Science Talent Search (STS). Six other students including Monique Powell ’15, Taulant Kastrati ’15, Meghan Ng ’15, Zainab Iqbal ’15, Hillary Syeda ’15, and Dina Deng ’15 were awarded the 2015 Intel STS Research Report Award for presenting "a well-written, college-level, journal-style research report." Moreover, another student, Valeriya Falkovich ’15 received a Student Initiative Award for "exhibiting extraordinary effort and dedication in her pursuit of scientific research.”
"It’s about time," said Mr. Glenn Elert, one of the advisors for the Intel classes. "Charlynn definitely deserves this award. We were beginning to get discouraged because of the lack of feedback from Intel which prevented us from doing well."
Charlynn’s project, "A Shark Homolog of REV3, a DNA Translesion Polymerase" tested the polymerase zeta in the primary enzyme that is responsible for mutation in the shark gene. Along with her mentor, Dr. Ellen Hsu, they analyzed and studied the shark gene in order to create a unique sequence.
2015 Intel Semifinalist Charlynn Trish Ben
"I was able to clone the beginning and end of the sequence which is purely my own sequence," said Ben.
All students in Intel had to go through arduous preparation in order to ensure that they had prepared an excellent report. The Intel classes of Ms. Jennifer Sullivan, Mrs. Shaniece Mosley, and Mr. Elert spent the majority of their time working in various labs throughout NYC. Each student was guided by a knowledgeable and supportive mentor from colleges such as Brooklyn College, Long Island University (LIU), and SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
"My mentor, Dr. Frank W. Grasso helped me develop my project over the summer, along with my fellow senior researchers to create a unique experiment that would bring out the most important aspects," said Ng. "If I didn’t understand something, I would go to him and ask since he has years of experience."
These mentors helped them develop and carry out their scientific experiments. Instead of attending a ninth period class, students were expected to work in their labs for at least four hours every week. The time spent at these labs was crucial in further developing and improving their own experiments.
"My mentor is an intelligent and amazing woman," said Ben. "She certainly helped me in understanding the project because it was a topic that I had minimal knowledge of. She was hard on me sometimes but it made me want to work even harder for her and myself."
As a result, receiving such prestigious awards was an incredible moment for the mentors, advisors and students. To have been recognized for all the long days filled with hard work and the multiple
drafts that only ended up being edited really made it meaningful.
"The fact that I won the Research Report award makes all the time I spent on my paper and in the lab that much more memorable," said Powell. "I am extremely proud of all the other winners too, especially Char- lynn!"
Throughout the whole process, each student had an advisor who was there to check up on their work and
to offer suggestions and feedback. The advisors, Mrs. Sullivan, Mrs. Mosley and Mr. Elert understood that this was going to not only be frustrating, but would also require a lot of patience from the students.
"The process of the project was quite a long one," said Ben. "At times, I felt like quitting because the work would get very overwhelming and I barely had time for my studies. However, I felt that I had done so much work that it would be a waste to give up."
Mrs. Sullivan said, "I was Charlynn’s advisor and met with her 2 to 4 times a month to read over the various things she would be entering into competitions. She handed in her work to me, and I tried to edit it to the best of my ability."
Although this was an exhausting and long journey for the Intel students, those numerous hours and days were all worth it in the end.
"I feel accomplished," said Deng. "With the amount of effort I put into my project, it’s great to know it all paid off."
Written by Areeg Naeem
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 edition of Argus.