On May 21, the 13 finalists of the $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action award, powered by the Google Science Fair, were announced. In this blog series, we would like to shed light on the students behind the projects. On June 6, the winner of Science in Action award will be announced.

Mark Liang, a 14 year-old from San Marino, CA

Project: Remediation of Perchlorates with Sunflowers

Why did you decide to enter the Google Science Fair?

I entered the Youtube Spacelab Competition in the fall with a proposal on fungi studies, but I only made regional finalist. Despite my disappointment, the organizer was nice enough to email me and suggested I try my luck at the GSF. I d already done some preliminary research on remediation with fungi, but I was interested in how common plants fit into the equation (not many people appreciate mushrooms).

How does your project impact the community you grew up in?

Growing up in the LA basin, I ve always thought California was a perfect place to live. Looking back, I realize the state has been fixing mistakes they ve made decades ago. Perchlorate, the chemical I ve studied, has been found in alarming numbers in wells all over the county. People get scared, especially when traces are found in their children s drinking water. The chemical inhibits thyroid processes, and in the end can cause irreversible growth and cognitive delays. I thought that my project results could enlighten people about the dangers in a developed city, and how solutions are possible in the simplest of things. I suppose it also had to do with money. I thought my parent s tax dollars were better well spent on sunflower seeds than importing bottles of water.

What does being recognized as a Science in Action Award finalist mean to you?

It s truly hard to put in words. It s priceless to realize that the ideas you ve been exploring could help people, maybe even save them. Scientific American is the apex of all research endeavors, and to be recognized for something I did while I was 14? Shocking. Mind-blowing even. I d love for the chance to work with a mentor, and I really want to make a difference for people around my community and the world. Perhaps being a finalist sends me one step closer to that goal.


Anjan Venkatesh, a 14 year-old from Bengaluru, India

Project: Fluoride Removal with Renewable Bioadsorbents

Why did you decide to enter the Google Science Fair?

Google is a world renowned company and the Google Science Fair is a prestigious science fair that is recognized world over, with entrants from all over the world coming up with ideas and research to make this a better world. This in addition to my passion for science motivated me to enter the Google Science Fair 2012.

My project focuses on removal of fluoride from water, which is a basic necessity for every living being on this planet. With my project having a potential to impact a larger community in developing countries across the globe, I wanted to enter a science competition that is truly global in nature and the Google Science Fair was the right Science Fair to submit my project.

Who are your scientific inspirations and why?

My scientific inspirations include Louis Pasteur, because of his never-say-die attitude and his disregard for society’s mockery of his research during his lifetime; Albert Einstein, for his ideas which revolutionized the field of Physics, and Charles Darwin, who propagated his Theory of Evolution through his book the Origin of Species, now a veritable Bible of evolutionary biology, though his ideas went against those prevalent at the time; and Neils Bohr, for his theories on the composition of matter, that provide the basis for modern chemistry.

What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years and why? The past 10 years?

According to me, the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years was the computer, which connected people all over the world, and helped scientists take their research forward at a pace much faster than they ever could have earlier. The computer is the basis of a whole other branch of science. Technology would still be primitive without computers. They have impacted all walks of life. Human intervention, errors and time taken to do a task has been exponentially reduced by using computers in all walks of life.

The most revolutionary invention in the past 10 years is Stem Cell Therapy. Though the technology is still young, it shows much promise to cure several diseases and improve the quality of life.

Menna Abdel Gawad, a 16-year old from Saudi Arabia

Project: Seawater Purification Program

Why did you decide to enter the Google Science Fair?

I decided to enter Google Science Fair because I believe that I have an idea which could help save the environment or even the world from Global Warming, drought, and garbage accumulation. When I heard about the Google Science Fair I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to display my idea in front of a panel of great judges.

How does your project impact the community you grew up in?

Since I am Egyptian living in Saudi Arabia I believe that my idea could help both countries. In Egypt we depend on the Nile River as our only source of water and this dependence has harmed other countries that also depend on the Nile River. Egypt is using a huge amount of water from the Nile River and leaving little amount of water for other countries. This situation has lead to political conflicts between Egypt and other African countries. I believe if Egypt started using the two seas it lays between by purifying their water it could solve this problem. Also I knew that some countries that purify the seawater use ways that increase air pollution. I thought if Egypt wants to make a factory for seawater purification it should use a source that won’t cost a lot and won’t increase air pollution. Egypt’s problem was my real inspiration. In Saudi Arabia there is seawater purification but they burn petroleum or fuel to get the energy needed to boil the seawater, and this process leads to increased air pollution. I think my project will help Saudi Arabia use sustainable resources to purify the seawater.

Who are your scientific inspirations and why?

My scientific inspirations are the people who stood beside me while I did this project: my dear parents, my best friend, and my science teacher. My inspirations are also the great scientists who cared about the environment like the French scientist Antoine-Caesar Becquerel, who invented the solar panel.