Girl's work sends coded message

Published February 16, 2007

Wharton High School had seven entries in this week's county Science Fair - mostly guys with engineering projects. And then there was Seung-eun Jang, Wharton's lone female in the show.

The St. Petersburg Times listened in as David Vasquez, a senior, wandered over to the zoology aisle to meet his mystery classmate, a 17-year-old junior.

Her cobalt poster board was decorated with orange pipe cleaners twisted into DNA helices. The title: "DNA Analysis of Three Organisms to Determine Phylogenetic Relationships Using 18 RRNA."


David: "These are DNA sequences?"

He stares at the computer printouts posted, with line after line of coded letters: "CATTAATCAAGAACGAA ...

Seung-eun: "This part, I just used a computer program."

David: "Okay, so you determine the samples by reacting the DNA?"

Seung-eun: "No, actually, the RNA." She starts to explain the details, then thinks better of it. "My major purpose was to get the tissue samples that I don't know the species of and get the DNA."

David: "That's amazing."

Seung-eun: "Questions?"

Not so much. In David's project, "Imagineering with Sound," he proposed that amusement park rides could get bigger thrills with sound tracks using high frequency notes.

Seung-eun: "Yours looks very interesting and intricate. But I'm not into that area."

- Letitia Stein, Times staff writer