Pierson student’s research earns national acclaim

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For the third time in as many years, a Pierson High School science student is a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, a national contest highlighting the research work of high school seniors.

Andrew Mitchell, 17, of Sag Harbor is among 300 semifinalists selected 
by a panel of scientists from more 
than 2,000 applicants to the annual contest.

In a research methods class at Pierson, Andrew identified two previously unknown compounds found in mold spores that can play a key role in potentially important medical work. The student found that the compounds can kill specific types of fungus that can cause health problems in patients suffering from AIDS.

“Andrew is a brilliant science and math student,” said Pierson science teacher Robert Schumacher. “He is exceptional at research.”

Andrew’s experiment broke down a sample of mold collected from the trunk of a birch tree in East Hampton in 2003. He isolated and identified various substances in the mold, including two compounds that had not previously been documented. In Dr. Schumacher’s science class, Andrew found that the unknown compounds appear to kill certain yeasts that cause the fungal infection known as thrush in patients suffering from AIDS.

“It’s exciting,” the student said this week. “Hopefully, it will be something important in making new medicines.”

Dr. Schumacher and Andrew plan to publish the results of the student’s findings in a science journal later this year and hope that the results will earn him a spot among the 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search.

The results of the next round of judging will be announced on Wednesday, January 28.

The Intel Science Talent Search is the nation’s oldest and most highly regarded pre-college science contest. Seven Intel talent search finalists have gone on to win the Nobel Prize and three have won the Fields Medal, the highest international honor in mathematics.

Finalists travel to the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C., in March to present their research findings to a panel of 12 distinguished scientists. The students who present the top 10 submissions receive college scholarships.

Andrew said he hopes to attend Dartmouth College next year. He intends to study marine biology and zoology in college.

He is the fourth student from Dr. Schumacher’s research methods class to have been selected as a semifinalist in the contest. In 2003, Pierson senior Ailish Bateman was chosen as a finalist in the contest for discovering a new antibiotic.

“When you see the list of students who participate in this contest from Long Island, they are all from the big schools back to the west,” Dr. Schumacher said. “Then you have us way out here on the East End.”

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