Staples' Jason Gandelman returns from prestigious science competition
'Super Bowl' of science
Published 1:05 am, Friday, April 2, 2010
Even the abstract -- intended for laymen -- in Jason Gandelman's award-winning science research project is somewhat complicated. It's hard to blame him, since it's just the nature of his work: complex, years in the making and potentially life-saving.
With a title like "Bioinformatic and Synthetic Approaches to Studying Advanced Glycation End-products in Eukaryotes," how could a project that's spanned almost his entire high school career be boiled down into one single paragraph, anyway?
Through his research, Staples High School senior Gandelman determined that yeast can be evolved to fight the toxic compounds that are linked to many of the problems that arise with diabetes. As he succinctly put it: "My study provides new directions in the creation of medications to cure the horrible diabetic complications of the blood vessels and kidneys."
In 2007 he began working in conjunction with a team of researchers at Yale University as part of Staples High School's science research course, where students independently propose an area of study and then find a mentor and laboratory to conduct the work. When he started at 15, he was not even old enough to use the lab. Still, he did computer research until he was old enough to truly begin the work.
"I've always been very curious about the world around me," Gandelman said. "Chemistry has always been very interesting to me because it's in the center of all the sciences. There's some biology, there's some physics and a lot of interdisciplinary work involved."
All the research was done for the three-year course -- which included summers -- that is now coming to an end with the rapidly approaching summer vacation. Senioritis hasn't struck Gandelman -- at least not yet. Thanks to his comprehensive study, he was invited to Washington D.C. in March as one of the top 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search.
He referred to this as the "Super Bowl" of high school science competitions. Some proof of the contest's prominence can be seen in the numbers: since its inception 68 years ago, seven finalists have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.
In Washington, D.C., he had to present his research, both to top scientists and to the public. Politicians were also in attendance. However, unlike previous years, the finalists didn't get a chance to meet President Barack Obama, due to a piece of legislation involving health care that was occupying much of the president's time.
"He was obviously very busy," Gandelman said.
While the president couldn't make it this year, the competition remains a big deal, especially since $630,000 in award money is given out to the finalists.
"These 40 Intel Science Talent Search finalists demonstrate that we have the capability in this country to cultivate the next generation of innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs," said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini in a news release. "These young scientists are proof that curious, eager minds coupled with inspiring, knowledgeable teachers are the foundation for world-changing innovation."
Back home, his teachers are impressed.
"The running joke is once you make it as a finalist at Intel ... you really don't have to apply to colleges. They start applying to you," said Nick Morgan, a Staples science teacher who advised Gandelman on the research project.
Michele Morse-Guadio, who teaches the science research course, said, "He's very bright. He works hard. We do a lot of presentations and his presentations are good. He has a lot to offer."
While most people can often be broken down into math/science or English/history types, Gandleman blurs those lines. He's president of the debate team and co-president of the investment club.
Right now, Gandleman is waiting to hear back from colleges he's applied to and he's already received some offers to attend certain schools. There's no dream school for him per se, but he knows that he wants to study chemistry. As for his more immediate plans, he intends to spend his summer a little differently than the last two.
"I'm not too sure yet," he said of his plans. "I'm going to do something else other than hardcore research, probably."