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 Budding scientists, determined students win SRU/PJAS honors 



March 5, 2010

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab


Budding scientists, determined students win SRU/PJAS honors


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Two budding scientists won four-year scholarships to Slippery Rock University and two science students who overcame obstacles in mounting their research were honored when the University hosted the Region IX Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science annual meeting last weekend.

            More than 900 participants, including parents and sponsors, were on hand for the awards ceremony in SRU's University Union following the daylong program of presentations of student research as part of the annual science fair. The event, hosted by SRU for the past 13 years, is coordinated by William Sigmund, SRU professor of biology.

            The new $100 perseverance awards, provided by Devin Ronge, computer coordinator for the program and a fulltime employee of Lockheed Martin's Philadelphia operation, recognized students who stuck with their PJAS project after encountering a setback, including days off from school due to snow that impacted their science work.

           This year's senior high award for perseverance went to Kayla Percic from Apollo Ridge High School for her sophomore biochemistry entry. She also won the SRU-sponsored senior high chemistry award. The junior high perseverance award went to Paige Weaver from Immaculate Conception School for her eighth-grade behavioral science entry.

           Nominations for the new award were accepted from the student's sponsor or from judges after they had interviewed the students as part of the competition and learned of the difficulties.

           Jessica Glas, a senior at Seneca Valley High School, was named recipient of the $12,000 SRU/PJAS Scholarship for her project titled "Phytoremediation of the Xenobiotic Acetylsalicylic Acid" in the botany category. Stephen Posney, a junior at Freeport Senior High School, was awarded the $12,000 SRU/PJAS Scholarship in the junior category for his project "Beat the Dealer: A Card Counting Enrichment Program" in the computer science category. The students will receive $3,000 in annual scholarship support if they attend SRU.

           Glas also earned her sponsor, Dale Wagner, the Senior High Biology Mentor Award.

            Other awards went to:

            Zoe Reitz, a Freeport Senior High School freshman for her project, "Does Fly Ash Inhibit the Germination of Annual Rye Grass?" in the junior high biology category. Her sponsor, Donald Orlowski, received the Mentor Award.

            Melissa Bigger, a Riverside High School sophomore, won top honors in the senior high mathematics category for her work titled "AStudy of the Isoperimetric System."

           Anand Singh, an eighth grader at Beaver Middle School, won the junior high mathematics category with "Fast Fractions." 

            Kayla Peric, an Apollo Ridge High School sophomore, took the senior high chemistry category with "A Sliver of Liver."

           Gabrielle Houston, an eighth grader at St. Vitus School, New Castle, won the junior high chemistry category with "Which Drug Delivery Method Works Best?"
            The PJAS presented a $250 award in behavioral science to Sarah Bishop a Butler High School junior. The award was created by Carmine Scotece from the Butler County Mental Health/Behavioral Health Center and a 25-year judge in the science program.

           The Chick Stewart Award, presented to a future teacher, went to Madeline Williams, a West Middlesex High School senior. 

           The annual scholarship formally known as the "William R Sigmund PJAS Award," created by the Region IX Committee in 2007 in recognition of Sigmund's dedication and service to the program, will go to Jessica Rack, an SRU graduate student from Pittsburgh. The award is $250.

           SRU President Robert Smith welcomed the judges at their pre-contest luncheon, and William Williams, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at SRU, greeted the 535 students, 100 teacher-sponsors and nearly 200 parents at the awards ceremony. Twenty SRU faculty and more than 40 SRU students, many from Beta Beta Beta, the biology honorary, were among the 160 who served as judges.

           Sigmund, who called the event an "overwhelming success," told the participants, "As a biologist, I am inspired by seeing so many young scientists on our campus to present the results of their scientific investigations. I want you to know how much I appreciate your enthusiasm and love for the sciences."

           "I also want you to know about the tremendous opportunities offered by Slippery Rock University in math and science, including the opportunity to work cooperatively with a faculty member on scientific research," he said. 

           All students earning a "First Place" at the SRU competition advance to the state competition in May at State College.

           Next year's meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.


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