Two Maryland high school students were among the top winners named last night in a prestigious nationwide science competition sponsored by Intel Corp.
Myers Abraham Davis, 17, a senior at Polytechnic Institute in Baltimore, placed seventh in the Intel Science Talent Search competition for his computer science project that produced more accurate physical simulations, earning a $20,000 scholarship.
Yuan "Chelsea" Zhang, 17, a student at Montgomery Blair High School in Rockville, won third- place honors and a $50,000 scholarship. She researched the molecular genetic mechanisms behind heart disease, finding one molecule that contributes to plaque build-up in arteries.
Reached last night on his father's cell phone, Myers Davis sounded more like a jubilant youth than a top-10 winner of what many call the "junior Nobel Prize."
"It was in a big room with lots of people and I was on stage in the back row and they said my name," Davis said, moments after he won. "Sorry, I'm just sort of letting it sink in."
Julia Paschal Davis and Michael Davis were equally excited after they watched their son receive his award at the International Trade Center in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
"They named the school before they named the child. He was the only kid from the school, so when they said the school, we just stood up and clapped," Michael Davis said. "It's hard to be conscious at that time. We just stood up and clapped. Better than falling down."
Myers is enrolled in the Ingenuity Project at Poly, a scholastic achievement program for public school students gifted in mathematics and science. He worked for more than two years at the Johns Hopkins University fine-tuning his project.
"I think he just got caught up into it," his mother said. "I would drive him wherever he needed to be - drive and feed him and love him and make sure he did his chores. So that was my contribution."
A Utah high school student, Shannon Babb, 18, won this year's top prize - a $100,000 scholarship. She spent six months studying the Spanish Fork River drainage system to assess the effects of human and animal behavior.
She concluded that runoff can be reduced by fortifying and replanting the banks along the river, reducing animal grazing in those areas, directing runoff into settling ponds and educating people about household chemicals.
Jeffrey Chunlong Xing of River Hill High in Clarksville was also a finalist this year, and another Poly student, Owen Forgione Hill, was a semifinalist. Ryan Marques Harrison, then a Poly senior, placed fifth in last year's firstname.lastname@example.org
The Associated Press contributed to this article.