Yizhen Zhang and Michael Winer, two MCPS seniors, were named finalists in the 2015 Intel Science Talent Search. They will receive $7,500 in scholarships in addition to an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. from March 5-11, where they will compete for more than $1 million in additional awards.
Yizhen Zhang attends Richard Montgomery High School, and is involved in a wide range of activities, from participating in her school’s debate club to playing the flute and the piccolo. She was also a semifinalist for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. Her project, which she has worked on for two years, is titled “Wiring for ‘Blue’-Connectome of the S-Cone Photoreceptor in the Outer Retina.” Her research observations, which lend support to other recent hypotheses of S-cone function and clearly describe the anatomy of the blue-light pathway, may inform future treatments for colorblindness.
Michael Winer attends Montgomery Blair High School, where his interests include physics, math, reading, and writing a blog, and is also on the Blair Math Team and United States Physics Team. His project is titled “Interactions of Electrons and Phonons in a Crystal.” Michael was not available for comment for the MoCo Student staff.
The MoCo Student interviewed Yizhen Zhang about her experience with research and science. Below are excerpts from the interview.
How did you get interested in science?
Zhang: I’ve always loved science and the process of exploring and discovering new things… In the past, I’ve been interested in exploration in general, but three years ago I found a tumor inside of me. I didn’t tell my parents. I self-diagnosed it as benign, but two months later it tripled in size so I had to tell my parents. I was going to have surgery on it… [which] conflicted with my dream of pursuing volleyball. This surgery caused me to recognize the fragility of the human body.
I overcame pain and persevered, allowing me to play volleyball just three weeks after surgery, ultimately living my dream. Nevertheless, the dream was short-lived. I had an accident during practice that almost completely tore two ligaments and strained a nerve, so my dream was shattered and I couldn’t walk for over two months… I realized that I needed to value all these things and realize how ephemeral they can be.
[We take most things] for granted, so that really began my research into color vision.
What is your project about?
Zhang: My research provides a deeper understanding of color vision, specifically on how we perceive blue light. Blue light is also really important for cognitive function, circadian rhythm, and eye development. Research in this field could lead to cures for blue light color-blindness.
Advice for others?
Zhang: I spent my first summer looking for a s-cone and I just couldn’t find it… Definitely don’t let any barriers prevent you from enjoying exploration or discovery! When you have a passion for something, pursue it at all means, even if you’re not successful at the beginning. You should also try approaching problems through multiple dimensions or through multiple perspectives, and always keep an open mind and never give up!
Article by the MoCo Student News Staff and MoCo Student staff writer Zoey Tang