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Knack for science sends two to top competition

The Lecanto High juniors earn regional acclaim and are invited to state and international science fairs.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2001

Samir Amin walked away from the Citrus County Regional Science and Engineering Fair with a first place in microbiology, an invitation to the state science and engineering fair and special awards from the Rotary Club of Inverness and Yale Science & Engineering Association.

Amit Patel received a first place in environmental sciences, an invitation to the state fair and special awards from the Department of the Army, Intel Excellence in Environmental Health and Safety and the United States Air Force.

And both won the biggest plum of all. The two Lecanto High School juniors were selected to represent Citrus County at the International Science Fair in San Jose, Calif., in May.

Samir, 16, did a project titled: The Application of a Hammerhead Ribozyme Library for Cleavage of mRNA to Identify Mouse Tumor Suppressor Genes. He explained that he used ribozyme, a kind of biological scissors, that can be targeted at various mRNA (the substance that carries protein codes from DNA to the sites of protein synthesis) to target mouse tumor suppressor genes. "I identified various tumor suppressor genes and tried relating them to human genes," he said.

Samir did his research in Dr. Alfred Lewin's laboratory at the University of Florida under the guidance of Lewin's assistant, Jennifer Bongorno.

Samir is considering a career in medicine and is interested in gene therapy. This will be his second competition in the International Science and Engineering Fair. He is the son of Nila and Kamalesh Amin.

Amit, 17, did a project called: Neutron Activation for Toxic Elements Found in Fish Muscle Tissue in Coastal Waters: The Affects of Processing Trace Elemental Concentrate Content. He said he used radiation to detect concentrations of elements.

"I process samples to reduce elemental content," he said. This was a second year study.

Amit would like to attend the University of Florida and is interested in psychiatry. He is also a repeat competitor in an international fair, although he and Samir attended different years. Amit is the son of Harshad and Jaya Patel.

Samir says he will be doing some updating to his project before the May competition and Amit says he plans to do more testing to prepare for the international contest. On this return trip he says, "This is my time to go there seriously and get the job done."

That is not to say they both don't expect to have a good time as well. They are looking forward to meeting new friends and they both wanted to be quoted as saying, "There are hot people there."

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