3 at Eastside qualify for international science fair


Left to right, junior Lucinda Peng, freshman Jessica Lee and sophomore Meenakshi "Dipa" Bose, all from Eastside High School, are the only students in the district to qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, which they will attend in May, shown in a science classroom at Eastside High School in Gainesville on Monday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

Follow your passion, and it will pay off.

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Left to right, junior Lucinda Peng, freshman Jessica Lee and sophomore Meenakshi "Dipa" Bose, all from Eastside High School, are the only students in the district to qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, which they will attend in May, shown in a science classroom at Eastside High School in Gainesville on Monday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun

Chasing passions and evaluating personal experiences are taking three Eastside High School students — junior Lucinda Peng, freshman Jessica Lee and sophomore Meenakshi Bose — all the way to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix next month.

At the international competition — the largest for pre-college students — the Eastside trio will meet hundreds of students from around the globe and interact with some of the world’s most renowned scientists.

The girls were nominated for ISEF after scoring high marks at the regional science fair in February.

“It was really exciting but really shocking, too,” Lucinda, 17, said.

Her project examined the foot strike types of Eastside High cross-country runners and the relative effect on their joints.

Lucinda runs cross-country at Eastside, and she’d been injured twice in two years. Her physical therapist said her injuries were caused by her foot strike patterns while running, so she decided to conduct her own research.

The project pushed her toward considering a career in sports medicine and biotechnology.

She said she may continue with the project for next year.

Jessica, 15, built on her research from last year, when she compared life satisfaction for Asian-American children of immigrants to American children in non-immigrant families.

“I think every immigrant child can relate to me when I say that growing up with immigrant status definitely comes with its own set of obstacles,” said Jessica, who is of Chinese descent.

This year, she compared her findings to life satisfaction of native Chinese children, measuring factors such as age, school grades, number of siblings, parental involvement and expectations, extracurricular activities and stress level.

She said one of the most difficult parts was finding a certified professional to translate into Chinese the survey she used, then have it re-validated in Chinese — a required step.

“Doing a social science project has so many rules and regulations,” she said.

Carole Kimberlin, a professor in the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy, helped Jessica through the process and became her mentor.

Meenakshi, who goes by Dipa, didn’t have much luck finding a mentor at UF.

Now in her third year of research into prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Dipa has been working in her father’s lab in Savannah, Ga.

Initially, she said, she wanted to examine the tissue regenerative properties of starfish and relate it to bone marrow regeneration in leukemia patients. But her father, a professor of biochemistry and endocrinology, said that was a little too advanced.

Then she wanted learn about a disease — bubonic plague or MRSA, maybe lupus.

But, “My dad wouldn’t let me work with those,” Dipa said.

Around the same time, her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Dipa took a personal interest in the disease, which is the only one of the top 10 deadliest diseases in wealthy countries that can’t be cured or slowed, she said.

In her research, Dipa examined nicotine and genistein, a chemical that comes from soy, in Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment regimens.

“I learned a lot about patience,” she said.

Jessica said her main lesson was in communication. While she had to put in countless hours learning how to conduct social science research and analyzing the results, she still had to approach her subjects and ask them to participate in her project.

“You never really know how people will react,” she said.

For Lucinda, the project helped start her on a path toward a career.

And it was simply her passion for running that got her started on that track.

“I never realized how applicable it could be,” she said.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gvillesun.com.

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