South Side High School’s science research program continued its success at the competition level as three students reached the semi-finalist stage and another the finalist stage of the 2012 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
Samantha Prashad, for her work on an E. Coli based fuel cell, and Kyle Johnson and Thomas Keady, for their study of genomes that are predisposed to a certain form of cancer, were all named semi-finalists in the Siemens competition along with just 322 other students nationwide. Evan Chernack, with his study on dental pulp stem cell differentiation, was named one of only 93 regional finalists, and will compete on Nov. 16 at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh for a chance to move to the national finals.
Prashad, 17, worked at Stony Brook University to design a microbial fuel cell, made of two 100-millimeter flasks, that runs on bacteria as a means of alternate energy. According to Prashad, one chamber of the fuel cell was designed to hold E. Coli while the other chamber held a catalyst and between the chambers a membrane facilitated the movement of ions between the chambers.
“The whole idea of using a microbial fuel cell is that it’s an alternative source of energy, so it’s a cleaner source of energy since there aren’t any harmful sort of byproducts,” Prashad explained. “I’m always concerned and aware of what’s going on in the environment. It’s interesting looking at different things we can do to help it.”
Prashad said that she and her partner, a student attending Hastings High School in Westchester, were able to derive from the data a relationship between the rate at which nutrients are used by the bacteria to generate energy.
Though she does believe in protecting the environment, Prashad hopes to be pre-med in college, with a particular interest in oncology. Among the schools she has applied to are Cornell University and Columbia University, as well as 8-year pre-med programs.