Michelle Tong

Michelle Tong with Exhibit

Mercer Science & Engineering Fair Winner Claims Prize at the International Fair Hopewell Valley Central High Students takes 4th Place at Intel ISEF Sonja M.S. Michaluk, of HopewellValley Central High earned a 4th Place award in the Environmental Science and Engineering field at this year’s annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) held this year in Phoeniz, AZ for her project “A Novel Method of Monitoring the Health of our Global Fresh Water Supply using DNA Barcoding of Chironomidae (Diptera).” Sonja Michaluk and Michelle Tong of West Windsor-Plainsboro High North where winners at this year’s Mercer Science and Engineering Fair held at Rider University where they earned an all expense paid trip to compete at ISEF. ISEF is the premier high school science competition. It was host to over1800 of the top students from around the world. Krithik Ramesh of Greenwood Village, Colorado, received the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award for developing a machine learning technology for orthopedic surgeons. Students competed in twenty-two categories from Animal Sciences to Translational Medical Science. Sonja’s project was provided a new way to track water and environmental quality by tracking Chironomidae. These are small fly-like insects, commonly called midges, that are found all over the world and whose larvae live in freshwater bodies. The insects have evolved numerous sub-species adapted to a wide range of water quality, so identifying the Chironomidae in a lake or stream gives an historical indication of water quality but visual identification is often difficult. Ms. Michaluk’s project demonstrated a cheap efficient way of identifying the larvae through DNA testing. This will allow researchers and public health officials to determine not only the present condition, but the long-term history of our surface waters. Her project tied in closely with her volunteer work monitoring stream quality at the Watershed Institute in Pennington, NJ. Michelle Tong’s project was entitled “Engineering Membraneless Organelles via Optical Induction of Protein Phase Separation.” She developed a protein phase separation system built around a light-inducible system. Mercer Science and Engineering Fair is held annually in March. It is open to all students that go to school in Mercer County, NJ. The 67th fair will be held in 2020.

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