Some young Paulding scientists saw the need for better nutrition and medical treatments as ways to launch their projects to regional honors this year.
Six Paulding County High School students recently won first place in the Cobb/Paulding Regional Science Fair, which qualified them to compete in the state science fair later this month.
The winning projects were the products of Jacob King, Jonathan Roberts and the two-person teams of Victoria Solheim and Shaun Eisner, and Brooke Fitzgerald and Sierra Bastis.
They will compete against winners from 18 other regional fairs at the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair March 22 to 24 in Athens.
Lead science teacher Marc Pedersen of Paulding County High has helped his students advance their projects to the state science fair four years in a row. He said judges see certain qualities in first-place projects that separate them from others.
“Judges look for projects that are innovative,” Pedersen said. “They look for students that are passionate about their research.”
King won the overall top award at the regional event. His project, “The Control of Apoptosis through Gene Silencing,” sought to show possible ways to control normal human cell processes if they go awry and cause diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s.
“Cells can die either from external factors such as heat or viruses or can undergo what is called programmed cell death, commonly called apoptosis,” King said.
“Apoptosis is an incredibly important cellular function that can lead to dangerous diseases if gone awry. If apoptosis occurs too often, cells that need to be alive end up dying, causing diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Meanwhile if apoptosis does not occur in cells, they will continue to multiply indefinitely, leading to cancer.
He said apoptosis “is controlled by several genes, meaning that control over the expression of these genes might lead to possible preventative measures or even cures to some degenerative diseases.”
He said he planned to inhibit a gene called egl-1 that, if activated, causes apoptosis.
“If successful, this experiment will show that apoptosis can be controlled in developed cells, opening a door to possible therapeutic treatments for degenerative diseases,” he said.
Roberts’ project, “The Synthesization and Utilization of Liposomes for Nanoparticle Transfer,” also deals with health care and ways to overcome the tendency of some bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.
He said many medicines and treatments are toxic to the human body.
“This research project focuses on the effects of treating antibiotic resistant bacteria and non-antibiotic resistant bacteria with liposomes-encapsulating antibiotics.
“With the use of liposomes, medicine can be transferred more efficiently and effectively, limiting toxic effects to the body. As bacteria slowly become more resistant to antibiotics over time liposomes can be used to combat this resistance.”
The project from Fitzgerald and Bastis attempts to prove an acid that plants naturally produce to help them survive in harsh climates also can benefit people by helping them absorb more iron from food.
“It will help to cure the leading nutritional disorder of iron deficiency,” they said in a written description of the project.
The girls’ project, “Nanotechnology Synthesis of Nanoparticles with Ascorbic Acid,” is based on an experiment in which plants injected with ascorbic acid, in addition to what it already produced, grew significantly faster than those without the injections.
Eisner’s and Solheim’s project was titled, “The Development of a Biologically-Based, Multilateral Assay to Determine the Presence of Contaminants in a Freshwater Aquatic Environment.” The pair created a computer program for their project which used genetic information from a dragonfly to test for water pollution.
“Water sources are at a high risk of being polluted from a variety of sources. However, most tests that test for the levels and kinds of pollutants in an environment are either inaccurate or cannot test for a wide range of pollutants,” the teammates wrote.
They said design of a computer program was possible because “if these ways are recorded and input into a computer program, the program can then classify any other water source based upon how it affects their DNA and the program can then use this to predict the pollutants in the water.”
The students won first place at the regional fair Feb. 10 at Kennesaw Mountain High School for schools in Paulding and Cobb counties. The event featured two divisions for kindergarten through fifth-grade students, and grades six to 12.
More than 200 projects in K-5 and 130 projects in grades six to 12 competed for honors, said Sarah Graham, the school district’s science curriculum coordinator.