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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, January 28, 2023
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Good Hope Promotes Good Science, Confidence

Natasha Ceballos explains her science project at the Good Hope School.For the judges of the Good Hope School’s Science and Engineering Symposium, it wasn’t just that Natasha Ceballos used good science in her project, or that it was an important topic.

The Good Hope junior won the school’s science fair Wednesday in no small part because she clearly understood the complicated subject and was able to explain it so well, the judges said.

Ceballos’s project, titled "Mutant Level: CRS-MIS," was one of 120 projects presented by Good Hope high school and middle school students in the school’s gymnasium.

In case you’re thinking, "Oh, science fairs. The parents do all the work," bear in mind that Ceballos’s project asks the question "which, if any, sphongolid pathway genes could be targets to enhance echinocandin."

Okay? It has something to do with a fungus that can mutate in a way that could be useful in developing new and better drugs for the treatment of diseases, but if you want more information than that you’ll have to ask Ceballos, because while she explained the experiment with confidence and assurance, even the judges looked a little overwhelmed as the information poured out of the girl.

"No sweat," she said afterwards when asked how the presentation had gone.

Ceballos has spent eight weeks each of the last two summers working in a lab at the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia as part of the Physician Scientist Training Program. Her project is a result of the work she did there.

Similarly, junior Gabriella Canales brimmed with confidence as she finished her presentation, titled "Express for Less Cancer: Expressing of Single Chain Variable Fragments (ScFr) of Anti-Her1 Her2 mAB 8A4." And that was just the title.

"I always feel good when people ask me about my project," she said. "I like explaining things I’m passionate about."

Canales also was involved in a summer science program. She has spent the past two summers in the lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

It was that confidence that the judges were looking for, they said, an attitude born of knowing the subject thoroughly.

Judging panels for the high school and middle school students’ projects narrowed the fields to 10 favorites and called those students in to give oral presentations.

Afterwards, sitting and tallying the scores, they talked about the elements they were looking for: good use of the scientific method and original thinking; how the project was put together, what questions it asked; the important of the topic.

The oral presentations are important, they added, noting that sometimes a project might look interesting but when the student comes to explain it, it becomes clear that he or she doesn’t really understand the science.

And sometimes a project that might be on the borderline gets boosted by a passionate, knowledgeable presentation, the judges said.

And, as it happens, the three girls who finished in the top three places – Ceballos, Bryanna Canales and Gabriella Canales – besides all having strong science projects, are also all involved in school theater, giving them confidence when appearing in front of a crowd.

The Good Hope School’s Science and Engineering Symposium is the only science fair in the territory affiliated with the Intel Science and Engineering Fair. The top projects from the fair will go this summer to the international fair. The top two projects will be presented at Intel’s fair.

The top high school finishers at Good Hope’s fair Wednesday were: first place, Ceballos; second place, Bryanna Canales; third place, Gabriella Canales; and honorable mentions to Selesha Indira Subniak, Alex Lewit and Duncan Coles.

The top finishers in the middle school were; first place, Chris Ashley; second place, Aliyah Allick; third place, Jahniqua Cintron; and honorable mentions to Morgan Coles and Matthew Mays.

All four of the high school judges said they enjoy being part of the process, even though it makes for a long day.

"This is the future," said Tom Zimmerman, a research specialist from the University of the Virgin Islands.

"It’s the future of science emerging from St. Croix, which is cool," added Kemit Amon-Lewis, coral conservation manager from the Nature Conservancy.

The science fair continues Thursday with projects covering a wide range of scientific endeavors, from gene splicing to generating electricity from drops of water to computer games to studying whether different kinds of music have different effects on a person’s ability to concentrate.

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