Jackson Weaver, a student at McNair Academy in Jersey City – a prestigious public magnet school – is taking a concept of physics one step further.
Starting from the idea that energy within a system causes the velocities of molecules to change, he has applied it to biology in a project that will compete in a natural science and math competition in March.
Weaver has been named a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Forty finalists, from a pool of 300 semifinalists and over 1,700 entrants, were selected based on the scientific rigor and world-changing potential of their research projects. He is the second finalist from McNair in the last three years. Eswar Anandapadmanaban was named a 2015 finalist.
“Regeneron is proud to recognize the top 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists,” said George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron. “These talented young scientists are already exploring life-changing solutions for the world’s problems and are poised to lead innovation for future generations.”
He added, “I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my fellow Science Talent Search alumni who have gone on to become notable scientists and entrepreneurs, underscoring the critical role the program can play in launching a prominent scientific career.”
Measuring voltage in enzyme breakdown
Weaver’s experiment involves measuring and possibly regulating electrical voltage associated with enzymes. His project explores how electrical energy affects molecular reaction rates and may help develop new medical therapies
Enzymes help things break down into smaller units, generating energy, and at the same time they can use that energy to combine smaller units as part of a process for sustaining life. In one instance, enzymes play a critical role in digestion. But they also help in decay. The process often increases molecular collisions causing an increased number of reactions.
“Jackson will be one of the future stars of science.” – Jeremy Stanton
Weaver’s experiment focuses on electrical energy and voltage, investigating if it has the same effect as heat. If it does have an effect, the experiment focuses on how the rate of reaction will change at various voltages.
Weaver said he uses electricity to increase the rate at which peroxidase (an enzyme) broke down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, increasing the voltage for different trials. Using an indicator to measure the rates of reactions in the enzymes, Weaver hopes to find a way to possibly control these voltages, providing for possible use in hospitals or medical services to save lives.
“Jackson will be one of the future stars of science,” said teacher, Jeremy Stanton. ”I am so very impressed with how he extended his work that began with an AP Biology experiment and developed into a novel research investigation. Jackson’s research demonstrates that with a creative mind and a strong intellect you don’t always have to work with a PhD scientist or in a university lab to perform authentic research.”
Identifying the next generation of scientists
The Regeneron Science Talent Search, a program of Society for Science & the Public since 1942, (previously sponsored by Intel and Westinghouse) focuses on identifying the next generation of scientists and engineers who will provide critical leadership in solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges while shaping the future of research and development for our nation and the world.
Finalists receive at least $25,000 from the Regeneron Science Talent Search and compete for more than $1.8 million in top awards. The top 10 awards range from $40,000 to $250,000 for the first-place winners, who will be announced at a formal awards gala at the National Building Museum in Washington DC on March 14. In addition, McNair has also received $2,000 for having a Science Talent Search scholar.
“These 40 young scientists, engineers and mathematicians are poised to be the next generation of leaders in business and academia,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science & the Public and publisher of Science News. “Science breeds curiosity, enabling innovators to develop solutions that will help solve our world’s most pressing challenges. We are proud to celebrate 75 years of recognizing new innovations and research demonstrating the outstanding capabilities of young minds.”
The society has produced and organized the Science Talent Search since it was founded in 1942.
Weaver, whose project is “The Electrifying Speed of Enzymes,” will now go to Washington, D.C. from March 9-15 to undergo a rigorous judging process to determine the top 10 winners. He will also have the opportunity to meet with national leaders and share his project with the public at the National Geographic Society..
His AP Biology teacher, Ms. Chumki Gupta, provided mentoring and support in developing and conducting his research.
“It is a great honor to be recognized for such a prestigious award,” Weaver said. “I could not have done it without the help of my biology teacher, Ms. Gupta, and my science research advisers, Ms. Osoria and Mr. Stanton. They helped my theorize my experiment and collect the materials so I could complete it. It feels incredible to have my research acknowledge at such a high level and I look forward to my future scientific endeavors in college and beyond.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.