Three seniors at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School are semifinalists in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search competition. Sarah Ditchek, Joshua Pfeffer, and Solomon Swartz were all winners in the prestigious competition that is open to high school seniors across the country. The contest draws over 1500 applicants for 300 slots. This year only two other regional yeshivot placed in the competition: Ramaz in Manhattan, and Ma’ayanot in Teaneck, NJ, each had one apiece.
“We’re right up there all with the top Long Island research programs,” said Allen Sachs, North Shore Hebrew Academy High School’s director of research and special academic programs.
Ditchek developed a new method of measuring hurricane recurvature, which determines the path a hurricane will take. Her interest in extreme weather began when she was a kindergartener watching the Weather Channel, she said.
“By high school, my interest in hurricanes became a passion,” she explained via email.
She spent eighteen months studying 58 years of hurricane data to develop a more reliable way of predicting hurricanes. She hopes that the new method will help to save lives and admits she was “speechless” to learn that she is a semifinalist.
“I was elated that I had made a significant contribution to the scientific community,” she said.
Pfeffer won for his work on the Kahler-Ricci flow, a theoretical mathematics concept used in String Theory, whose complexity if far beyond the scope of this article. Swartz developed a thermal responsive hydro gel that could be used in breast reconstructive surgery after lumpectomies.
Swartz said that the goal of his project was to develop a gel whose molecular structure would be altered via radition so that the gel would solidify during chemotherapy. The project is still in the “in vitro” stage and will be followed by more testing before it can be readily available. Swartz said he was “very optimistic” about the possiblities for the gel.
Each semifinalist won $1,000 with North Shore Hebrew Academy High School receiving a matching grant. This is the first time that North Shore has had more than one semifinalist. In two weeks, the semifinalists will be whittled down to 40 finalists who will present their research in Washington, DC for a chance to win over $630,000 in prize money.
Ditchek has been accepted early decision into Yale University and plans to major in earth science and meteorology. Swartz will be attending the eight-year medical program at Brown University and Pfeffer is currently undecided, but plans to enter the field of mathematics research.
Most of the research for the student projects was completed over the last two summers.
“Instead of summer camp and having a good time they go to university and have their fun doing incredible science research,” said Sachs.