Projects ranging from the vaping trends at La Cañada High School to what is the effect of social media on teenage mental health were showcased recently at the third annual LCHS Science Fair.
Everyone was impressed with the amount of time and energy students put into the projects this year, and three were given awards.
“They seem to get better every year,” said Amy Nespor, science coordinator for the La Cañada Unified School District. “We were impressed with their ability to look at stuff and answer questions and their knowledge of what they were doing.”
LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal said it was a great opportunity for students to showcase their information and get feedback from professionals.
“This exemplifies enthusiasm for science learning and engineering learning at LCHS,” Cartnal said.
LCHS junior Sudi Feng was declared the winner with her project that studied a viral protein called US3 from the herpes virus and how it affects Alzheimer’s disease and the tau protein, found in the brain.
“My results are kind of mixed,” Feng said. Initially it was believed that “the more tau protein you have, the more likely you have Alzheimer’s. But then at the end … it might be a potential medication we could use.”
More study was needed, she said.
“A large part of science is not knowing what’s going to come out of it, right?” Feng said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Feng, who is interested in neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases, said she started around October and wrapped up in January. She is a member of the Science National Honors Society at the high school and decided to enter it in the fair.
Cartnal, who was the host of the event, declared her the winner. She said she was not expecting it. “I was definitely shocked,” Feng said.
Second place went to LCHS 11th-grade students Jordan Lay and Artis Phillips for “Studying the Mechanism of a Chaperone Protein.” Carolyn Gordon’s vaping project earned third place.
Lay said her project was trying to learn more about the chaperone protein.
“If we can find a way to make our chaperone protein more efficient and find a way that works, we can derive treatments of prevention techniques to be used therapeutically in humans with cystic fibrosis.”
Gordon’s project tackled the vaping epidemic.
“I obviously see, as a junior, a lot of my friends doing it and they’ve been using for a while,” Gordon said. “This project is basically to see what that looks like at our school. Based off a survey done in L.A. County, I designed my own survey to ask questions about kids and their usage and whether they’ve experimented and what they think about the health effects.”
Gordon said she plans to ask some follow-up questions but learned the main reason people have tried to stop vaping is health concerns. She said she does not vape and after doing the research said she doesn’t plan to because “I just know too much now.”
LCHS student Yasmine Kaki presented a social media project. She said what she discovered was that social media hadn’t created any new problems but instead exacerbated existing ones.
“When you talk about cyber bullying, anxiety or depression, that already exists,” Kaki said. “Social media just makes everything more prevalent.”
Judge Ian Swanson, a director of investments for Pasadena investment management firm First Quadrant, said he was looking for a good question.
“A focused question and a focused efficient way through the woods,” Swanson said. “I try to think about what makes good science. A good, hard problem and a clean, elegant way through the woods.” Winners and qualified entrants can compete at the 70th annual Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair held on March 19-21.