Ions, Viruses and Precursor Proteins

Ions, Viruses and Precursor Proteins

Potomac students Marberg, Anand and Yan among 300 national Intel scholarship semifinalists.

Eric Paul Marberg isn’t taking any math classes at Whitman this year, and senioritis is not to blame. Marberg completed the school’s most advanced mathematics courses last year as a junior, so last semester he enrolled In Math 340 at the University of Maryland, a course for university honors students.

Marberg received another scholastic honor last week when he was named as one of the nation’s 300 semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search for his project, “Electrostatic Deflection of Highly Charged Ions Within the Beam Line of the Electron Beam Ion Tap.”

Montgomery Blair seniors Easha Anand and Kenneth Yan, Potomac students enrolled in Blair’s science magnet program, were also among the 15 Montgomery Country students to be named Intel semifinalists.

Students applying for the Intel scholarships complete science projects, but the written project summaries are just one of many considerations. Marberg, Anand and Yan are each accomplished outside of the science field, and Whitman math teacher Susan Wildstrom says this is typical of Intel scholarship winners.

“What Intel is looking for is broad-based talent,” she said.

Each semifinalist receives $1,000, and each school receives $1,000 per semifinalist allocated to science and math programs at the school. Intel names 40 finalists on Jan. 28, and announces the winners on March 16.

“I WAS HAPPY, SURPRISED AND relieved. I wasn’t sure my project would make it to the next level,” said Marberg, who began his project during a summer internship at the National Institute of Science and Technology, working on it until the November deadline.

Marburg developed a computer model of an electrostatic deflector, a cylindrical device that manipulates charged particles and is used in an ion transport system.

Marburg has been interested in science and mathematics for as long as he can remember, and his father, a computer and software engineer, has been influential, Marberg said. Born in Takoma Park, Marburg and his family moved to Minnesota, and eventually to Kansas City, where he attended high school until the family re-relocated to the D.C. area just before his junior year.

By the time he entered Whitman, Marburg had completed calculus. “Our most brilliant students take calc in 11th grade,” Wildstrom said, adding that Marburg completed Whitman’s most advanced math course in his junior year. The Math 340 course Marberg now attends consists of multiple-variable calculus, linear algebra and differential equations, and the elite mathematics majors at the University of Maryland are enrolled. He received an A+ in the course, but like many of his accomplishments, Marberg didn’t mention it himself, leaving it to his teachers to give him due credit and praise.

“He’s very multifaceted, very unassuming, very humble – he doesn’t beat his own drum,” said Russ Rushton, resource teacher of Whitman’s math department. Rushton also coaches Whitman’s chess team, where Marberg plays the one-board (top spot). “He just has a way of figuring intuitively, working out problems.

“He’s the same on the chessboard. … He has a way of analyzing positions that nobody can compare to,” Ruston continued. “He’s only lost once in two years, and that was a fluke.”

YAN AND ANAND are both veterans of Montgomery County’s magnet program; each attended Takoma Park Middle School and Montgomery Blair High School. “I’m used to getting up pretty early,” said Yan, who can make the trip to Blair in 20-30 minutes if traffic is moving. “If I take the bus, it takes me an hour.”

With 13 Intel semifinalists, the Blair magnet students were well aware that the announcements were coming.

“We have it posted on the board,” said Yan, who learned he was a semifinalist from a friend who logged online when the results were posted. “I was surprised – I can’t say I jumped for joy,” Yan said.

Anand found out while she was in class. “I felt bad; somebody was giving a presentation,” she said. “There was chaos for a little while.”

High on Anand’s list of mentors is Dr. Glenda Torrence, Blair’s research coordinator, who is largely responsible for Anand submitting her project, “Interactions Between the Amyloid Precursor Protein and the NMDA Receptor: A Possible Biophysical Basis for Alzheimer’s Disease.”

“I didn’t think I would have time to do all the research,” Anand said. “She talked me into continuing the project, which was clearly the right move.”

Although Anand has interned with the Blanchette Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, but she isn’t positive she will stay on the science track in college.

Anand is editor-in-chief of Blair’s student newspaper, Silver Chips, first finisher in the Maryland Scholastic Press Association annual awards, which also named Silver Chips’ website as best in the state. She is especially proud of “Principals, Superintendent Clash,” a story Silver Chips broke in November, quoting several Montgomery County principals who felt that county schools superintendent Jerry Weast was suggesting they discourage underperforming students from taking the SAT.

“Journalism has been a huge deal for me,” Anand said. “It’s been more work for me than all my classes put together.”

Anand was part of Blair’s team in the 2003 Canon Envirothon, the continent’s largest environmental education competition, where Blair finished No. 5 nationally last summer. She was also secretary general of Blair Area Symposium for Model United Nations, which provides students with a forum debates typical of Model United Nations, without incurring the normal travel expenses.

Despite all her extracurricular involvment, Anand said she enjoys living like a typical teenager, going to movies, hanging out with friends and instant-messaging them when she’s back home.

YAN INTERNED with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and he is considering biomedical engineering studies in college. During his internship, he began work on his Intel project, “Identification of New Targets for HIV-1 Antivirals Using a Model Retrovirus in Yeast.”

“It has applications for fighting diseases like AIDS,” said Yan, whose interest in science came in part from seeing his father, a neurologist, treating patients at work.

When winter exams and college applications are done, Yan hopes he can play guitar again, something he picked up in recent years but was unable to do consistently as his workload increased. In the meantime, he plays volleyball each week in Chinese school, enjoying the chance to relax and focus on the game.