Vardhan takes best in show at science fair

Sophomore Sanju Vardhan’s microbiology project garnered Best in Show recognition along with $500 and eight other West Shore students placed first in their respective categories at last weekend’s Mainland Science & Engineering Fair held at Merritt Square Mall.

Along with Vardhan, sophomore Rashad Abdulla (mathematics), sophomore Michelle Chin (plant sciences), junior Michael Colucciello (computer science), senior Kaleb Hatfield (physics), senior Kelsey Savory (chemistry) and seventh-graders Haleigh Boyer (environmental science), William Lemstrom (animal sciences) and Michael Thomas (physics) all will advance to state competition.

In all, 31 of 40 West Shore high-school contestants and 23 of 31 middle-school contestants placed in the competition.

Vardhan’s microbiology project tested the effects of holy basil on respiratory viruses. Her work — which was largely conducted in the microbiology lab at Holmes Regional medical center — included experimenting with the adenovirus and the respiratory synccytial virus.

“I tested to see if Holy Basil, an herb, would inhibit the growth of respiratory problems,” Vardhan said. “I tested adeena cells, the common cold, and [Respiratory Syncytial Virus] which kills many infants. My conclusion came to be that when treated with Holy Basil, RSV can be killed off. Since there is no cure for RSV, Holy Basil can be used as a natural medicine to cure it.”

Hatfield’s physics project also drew attention.

“In a nutshell I’m building a tabletop fusion reactor,” he said. “It looks like a bell inside of a jar with metal grids. When it lights up because of the reactions going on inside, it looks like a lit-up star.”

His first-place finish came with monetary incentives.

“I received over $600 in cash from the Air Force, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Office of Naval Research and Harris. I couldn’t actually bring my project to Science Fair because it’s considered a public endangerment.”

Finishing in second place were: Margarita Cruz-Sanchez, chemistry; Helen Gerlach, engineering; Michael Greenleaf, plant sciences; Mohamed Naas, environmental science; Robin Parente, mathematics; and Ethan Taggart, physics.

Third-place finishers were: Subhiksha Aravind, microbiology; Hyun Bak, engineering team; Caroline Baney, medicine and health; Johnathan Dillon, computer science; Jarrett Henkel, plant sciences; Mark Kay, plant sciences; Teelah Kreiselman, behavioral and social sciences; Erica Lobmeyer, animal sciences, Justin Loomis, mathematics; Ashlynn Love, physics; Erik Maki, earth and space sciences; Natalia Marmol, engineering; Naeem Motlagh, microbiology; Brian Pickles, engineering; Jacob Rawlins, chemistry; Jacob Redito, engineering; Yael Rivera-Lopez, environmental sciences; Carissa Sage, animal sciences; Sean Simonian, chemistry; Evelio Sotolongo, physics; Bianca Taraschi, animal sciences; Srimayi Tenali, medicine and health; and Trung Van, engineering team.

Fourth-place finishers were: Colin Apt, medicine and health; Joseph Cowett, engineering; Krishna Davda, animal sciences; William Dawson, behavioral and social sciences; Timothy Drost, environmental sciences; Graham Foster, plant sciences; Kelly Ladd, environmental sciences; Andrew Lim, microbiology; Jerrin Luke, engineering; Michelle Maldonado, environmental sciences; Julia Rauchfuss, animal sciences; Nicholas Saladino, microbiology; Adam Sanchez, physics; Erin Sheridan, medicine and health; Sarah Simonian, medicine and health; Jonathan Spychalsky, plant sciences; and Andrea Taggart, environmental sciences.

Compiled from staff reports