Damaraju’s project wows Science Fair judges

After junior Lasya Damaraju won Best of Show during the recent South Science Fair she took a deep breath and reflected on the journey that got her there. 

“Most of [the judges] weren’t really familiar with the work I was doing because a lot of them had a background in chemistry,” Damaraju said. “But it was on the second day of judging, when I had the Best of Show judging and by that time I knew I won first place.”

Her project focused on developing a chemical structure to act as a drug delivery system that targets cancerous regions in the human body.

Damaraju said she didn’t think she did well while presenting for Best of Show.

“I actually told my judge ‘the neutron walks into the bar and has no charge’, I told him that joke,” Damaraju said. “I was like ‘Um, yeah I don’t think I’m really going to get Best of Show.’”

Despite her doubts, Damaraju won, and she had worked independently on her project and went to Florida Institute of Technology to perform research there.

“I’ve always dreamed about being in a F.I.T. lab because all the real science happens in there,” Damaraju said. “It was huge. I was expecting a really small lab, I don’t know why, and I walked in and was like ‘Oh wow, this is kind of cool.’ They have crazy expensive technology.”

Damaraju will be advancing to State Fair, and then to the International Science and Engineering Fair  in Phoenix, Arizona in May.

“Winning at ISEF is a huge, huge deal because you have people who are literally curing cancer and people who are doing super-cool innovative research,” Damaraju said. “So it’s really an honor to get to ISEF, and it’s a crazy big thing to win at ISEF.”

To celebrate the many first places won by West Shore students, Damaraju and other winners planned to get a chocolate fountain for Science Research teacher Mary Schropp and Paula Ladd.

“We just wanted to celebrate the research teachers and show them that we appreciated all that they did for us,” Damaraju said.

Even if they didn’t win, the students still planned on getting the chocolate fountain.

“We got a chocolate fountain, that was nice,” Shropp said.

Shropp and Ladd said their students brought in a variety of food to cover in chocolate.

“They brought some strawberries, pretzels and marshmallows, and we had a chocolate party,” Schropp said.

Ladd said the eclairs “were to die for.”

“And we’re going to use [the fountain] again,” Ladd said. “Oh, heck yeah.”

Both Shropp and Ladd said they were ready for the Science Fair to be over, especially after working during the weekends leading up to the event.

“We survived,” Ladd said.

By Laura Shelton