Hardy Plumbing
January 19, 2011

Another Semifinalist In Sag Harbor

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Once again a student at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor has been named a semi finalist in the prestigious Intel science talent search, and is the only East Ender to garner the honor.

Alexa Lantiere, daughter of Theresa and Salvatore Lantiere of Sag Harbor, was chosen last week for her work isolating compounds in the collospongia.

Dr. Robert Schumacher, who oversees the research program at Pierson and has guided five previous students to the Intel semifinals explained the folks at Atlantis Aquarium in Riverhead were having trouble with the collospongia, after it was accidentally introduced to a tank. It was impervious to an anemone's sting, fish wouldn't eat it and it began to grow right over other animals in the tank.

Scuba divers extracted samples of the sponge, Alexa continued. With specimens in hand, the 17-year-old set about extracting all the compounds, then repeatedly testing until a single compound was isolated. Using a filtration process, the senior, who is also an athlete, sent her findings to the University of Mississippi where researchers learned what the compound was made of. With that information Alexa was able to interpret the structure of the compound.

She determined the compound has antifouling properties, which keep it free of growth – it's similar to the paint people put on the bottom of a boat, she explained. The compound also has antibiotic properties, which may have medicinal value.

"The curator [at Atlantis] asked us to try and find out why this sponge was so successful in out-competing other organisms," Dr. Schumacher summarized. "Alexa's research answered these questions."

A life long resident of Sag Harbor, Alexa has already been accepted to Johns Hopkins University. She plans to major in public health and pursue a pre-med study path. She'll play field hockey there as well.

Reflecting on a hectic schedule – she took Dr. Schumacher's research class last year, but couldn't fit it into her schedule as a senior, meaning she did all her work independently during scarce free periods -- Alexa said she was "very excited" to be named a semi finalist. "I'm glad all the hard work paid off," she said, her parents adding "We're very proud of her." She'll learn whether she makes the finals next week.

According to the Intel website, the Intel Science Talent Search is the nation's most prestigious pre-college science competition. Alumni of STS have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world's most coveted science and math honors, including seven Nobel Prizes and four National Medals of Science. The Intel STS recognizes 300 students and their schools as semifinalists each year - pulling from 1,744 applicants in 2011 - to compete for $1.25 million in awards. From that select pool, 40 finalists are then invited to Washington, DC in March to participate in final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for the top award of $100,000.


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