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Student Earns SETI Institute Award

Student Earns SETI Institute Award

Saratoga High School Student Earns SETI Institute’s 1st  Annual Award for Exceptional Contribution to the Search for Life in the Universe 

Karen Lei

Karen Lei, a junior at Saratoga High School and a student of Jill McCrystal, earned the SETI Institute’s first annual award for exceptional contribution to the search for life in the universe. The award was part of this year’s Synopsis Science and Technology Fair sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Science and Engineering Fair Association.

The Santa Clara Valley Science and Engineering Fair Association Board of Directors acted swiftly this spring as COVID 19 was emerging throughout the Bay Area. The event was shifted in-person judging to online judging on March 4. The board and Santa Clara County Office of Education set up a call center, shared thousands of project documents online, and scheduled 1,000 no-host video conferences in time for the March 12 judging.

The SETI Institute’s Pamela Harman, Director of Education and Simon Steel, Senior Director of Education and STEM Programs, reviewed students’ project documents online and conducted virtual interviews. Typically, the fair generates qualifiers for the California Science & Engineering Fair. However, this year the event was canceled due to COVID-19.

Pamela Harman and Simon Steel Judging
Simon Steel and Pamela Harman reviewing students' projects online.

Karen Lei’s project investigated the “Characteristics and Identification of an Unknown 21 cm HI emission,” and earned the inaugural First Place Award.   Ms. Lei is the founder and president of the school’s astronomy club that fabricated a radio telescope and conducted observations.  An anomaly in the data collected inspired the project that garnered her a handful of awards.  She plans to expand her research over the summer in preparation for her senior year project.

First place certificate for Karen Lei

Honorable Mentions:

  • Leo Bailloeul, Rishee Gupta, and Kenneth Meng, juniors at Henry M Gunn High School, Effect of increased temperature on cyanobacteria growth and photosynthesis. Ann Lorey, teacher-advisor

  • Rakesh Vinod Mehta, a sophomore at Milpitas High School, Are exoplanets habitable? Determining the habitability of exoplanets.   Christopher O’Connor, teacher-advisor

  • Sasveth M. Ramachandran, sophomore, Harker School Upper-Campus, Determining the UVA Intensity Threshold for Cryptobiosis in Hypsibius dujardini. Thmas Artiss, teacher-advisor.

  • Katherine Grace Mekechuk, junior, and Gurmehr Kaur Klair, senior, Presentation High School, Determining the Constraints of the location of a possible 9th Planet using Dynamic System Modeling.  Tracey Hughes, teacher-advisor

  • Emma Biswas and Arissa Huda, freshmen, Harker School Upper-Campus,  The Effect of the Temperature Increase Over 300 Years on the Growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Using Micrococcus luteus. Mike Pistacchi, teacher-advisor

Congratulations to all the scientists of the future who participated in the is event!

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