A couple of the nation’s brightest high school scientists have Yale in common.
On Jan. 31, Intel Corp. announced the finalists for the 60th annual Science Talent Search Competition, naming among them two high school students from Connecticut with Yale connections: Mariangela Lisanti from Westport and Heather Higgins from Orange. In two weeks, both will fly down to Washington, D.C., to present their results to distinguished judges in their respective fields.
Lisanti and Higgins have both spent some time at Yale, and Lisanti actually did her prize-winning research at the University with electrical engineering professor Mark Reed. Higgins, a student at Academy of Our Lady of Mercy in Milford, Conn., did her research at Massachusetts General Hospital, but cites a lecture series she attended at Yale during her sophomore and junior years as crucial in furthering her scientific curiosity.
The Yale Frontiers of Science and Engineering lecture series “augmented my deep interest in science,” said Higgins, whose project dealt with techniques for measuring blood flow in the brains of stroke victims.
Lisanti’s project, “Conductance Quantization in Au Nanocontacts,” was based on research she did last summer at Yale. Lisanti, who attends Staples High School in Westport, Conn., worked in Reed’s microelectronics lab in the Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center, and the project was highly successful, Reed said.
“This work will clearly result in a publishable paper,” Reed said in an e-mail. “She scooped some of the world’s best.”
The Science Talent Search, which in 1998 received sponsorship from Intel, is the nation’s oldest pre-college science contest, and one of the most prestigious. In 60 years of competition, five finalists have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, among many other awards at the highest level. The finalists in this year’s competition vie for a total of $350,000 in scholarships, with a top individual prize of $100,000.
Lisanti, who said she has a self-described “passion for research,” said that the experience working with Reed was one of the best of her life, helping her to appreciate the “twists and turns” of the scientific process. She said the loose level of guidance she had while working with Reed allowed her a lot of independence in her research.
“I had to figure out what to do with myself,” said Lisanti. “It’s very different from high school.”
In addition to being named a finalist in the Intel competition, Lisanti won the regional finals of the prestigious Siemens/Westinghouse science competition for the project that she researched at Yale, recognizing her project as one of the top in the nation.
Of the upcoming Washington, D.C., competition, Lisanti said she doesn’t know exactly what to expect, but seems to be readying herself for the scrutiny that her project will undoubtedly receive.
Both Lisanti and Higgins, as seniors, will have to decide where to continue their studies next year. Of the two, only Lisanti is considering coming to Yale.
“Yale is a serious consideration,” Lisanti said.
Higgins, meanwhile, weighs Harvard as her first choice.