As part of the School’s unique Advanced Science Research (ASR) elective, eight Belmont Hill seniors applied to the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search (STS). This submission is the first benchmark in two academic years’ worth of research these students have completed, including a full-time summer commitment leading into their senior year.
In projects including genetically modifying epithelial cells, to a novel means for detecting cancer biomarkers at home, the students began their scientific research during their junior year. During this time, they visited their lab for six hours each week during the academic year. In some cases, the students’ work began the summer before their junior year – in research laboratories where undergraduate or graduate students typically spend less than a year. The significant time spent by the ASR students allowed for amazingly complex and nuanced research. Seniors Brennan Adler, Alex Afeyan, Matt Armstrong, Connor Ghazaleh, Spencer Kim, Ethan McIlhenny, Harrison Rohrer, and David Yellen each completed their submission by the deadline on November 11th.
“In my years of helping students at several schools produce work for Intel, this is the largest group of applicants I have had,” explained ASR Director Jared Courtney ’97. “I have been amazed by this incredibly talented group of seniors in ASR. As each boy developed the lab skills and language of their research, it was a privilege to watch them produce applicable data and break new scientific ground.”
The Intel submission involves two major aspects: an original Research Report that cites current scientific literature, and a lengthy application. The application includes the student’s transcript and standardized test scores, as well as a series of essay questions that range from one’s potential as a scientist to what scientific question will drive research for the next twenty years. “Suffice it to say, the application process is demanding. Students often say that the Intel application is more challenging than college applications,” explained Mr. Courtney.
David Yellen ’16 completed his research related to gene therapy to target neurological disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. David’s mother, now a physician, was an Intel Finalist in 1979, which added special meaning to the project for David. “Though the process seemed daunting as we planned it last year, it turned out to be really rewarding,” he noted.
There are typically about 2000 applicants for the Intel STS. The Society for Science & the Public, which oversees the STS, announces the top 300 semifinalists in January 2016, and the top 30 finalists in February. Prize money is awarded for semifinalists and finalists, and finalists are invited to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Obama. Belmont Hill produced an Intel Semifinalist two years ago, when Alex Haigh ’14 completed his ASR project via research at Harvard Medical School.