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Hsueh, Wickman win at symposium

Students in Farragut High School’s Science Academy have, once again, distinguished themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the scientific community.

Seniors Michael Hsueh and Lindsay Wickman recently took top honors at The University of Tennessee’s Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

FHS science teacher and Science Academy sponsor Kristin Baksa said the competition is split into two categories: A poster competition, for which Lindsay won first-place, and a research presentation competition, for which Michael won second-place.

“It’s a regional competition and students across the state present their science research. They send in a research paper and an abstract and then they choose students to give their presentation or present their posters,” she added.

As the second-place winner for his research presentation, Michael will move on the National Competition in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he will compete against the top research students in the country.

Michael explained the competition format.

“We are allotted a 12-minute time slot to explain our presentation and tell what our project is all about,” he said.

“I gave a good background and the incentives for the project. I gave the hypothesis and rationale for wanting to explore this problem. After the 12-minute session there is a six-minute session where they can ask questions about your project. So you have to really know what your project is about and you have to really look into the background of the field,” he added.

Michael’s project was entitled “The Anaerobic Co-Digestion of Grease Trap Waste with Municipal Sludge Waste for Alternative Waste Disposal.”

“This project was meant to explore a way of treating grease-trap waste, which is the organic composition of fats and greases and oils from restaurants and other food service businesses.

“It is really hard to treat because it causes lots of inhibition in the anaerobic reactors, so what we did was explore co-digestion, which is simultaneously treating the Hemp waste drains and we found that through using this co-digestion technique it was feasible to create a better means of anaerobic digestion through dilution and more supplied energy potential,” Michael said.

“Basically the results of this feasibility study can be applied to commercial scale reactors for economic and environmental impacts,” he added.

Michael’s research was completed at The University of Tennessee in the civil engineering department.

“I worked with associate director Dr. Quiang He and also grad student Mr. Zhenwei Zhu,” Michael said.

The poster competition is less structured and does not require a formal presentation.

“There are just a lot of boards set up and people stand by their posters and people come around and you explain your project. It is not as structured as [Michael’s] where you get a time slot and have a certain amount of time [to present],” Lindsay said.

Lindsey’s project was called “Increased Concentrations of PAI-1 Result in Greater Deposition of Vetronectin into the Extracellular Matrix.”

“It is a lot less complicated than it sounds; it is the two proteins, PAI-1 and Vitronectin. What the study about basically is trying to determine how the vitronectin gets incorporated into extracellular matrix, which is all the space between cells, because when it is in the extracellular matrix it promotes a lot of different things like cellular adhesion and migration.

“It could even help us understand the migration of cancer cells to different parts of the body,” she said.

“So they were thinking based on some past research that maybe increased concentrations of PAI-1 would cause vitronectin to form large enigmers or large chains and have a higher tendency to be associated into the extracellular matrix.

“And with the research that I did there, they found that to be true,” she added.

Lindsay also did her research at UT and worked closely with Dr. Christen Peterson and grad student Sumit Goswami.

As the first-place winner in the poster contest, Lindsay has earned a place as an alternate in the national symposium and will compete along with Michael if a number of other students are unable to compete.

The national symposium will be held April 29 through May 3.


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