W. Tresper Clark High School Student Wins Brookhaven Lab's Essay Contest

UPTON, N.Y. — Justin Shanahan, a student at W. Tresper Clark High School in Westbury, N.Y., won the $500 grand prize in the annual Science and Society Essay Contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. Jessica Noviello, a student at Smithtown West High School, won $300 as the second place winner, and Mitchell Feinberg of Smithtown East High School, was awarded $200 for third place.

This year, students were asked to focus their essays on renewable energy sources, carbon sequestration, and global warming. Brookhaven Lab conducts basic research that contributes to advances in all of these areas. Students were asked to forecast how emerging technology will translate into effectively implemented solutions. The essays were expected to include issues such as economics, necessary or consequential changes to society and lifestyles, and practical implementation.

Photo of Shanahan, Noviello and Feinberg

(L to R) Justin Shanahan, Jessica Noviello and Mitchell Feinberg.

Shanahan’s essay, titled, “Poplars and Popgenics: Popular Means of Cutting Down Carbon Dioxide,” focused on the positive effects that green plants, specifically poplar trees, can have in the fight against global warming. Shanahan cited work done by Brookhaven researchers using “functional imaging" to track the distribution of plant nutrients, which may lead to a better understanding about how plants respond to environmental stress.

Noviello’s essay, titled, “The Use of Turkey Waste: How Biofuels are the Energy of the Future,” focused on the use of turkey waste, cow manure, and plants as alternative energy sources. Noviello cited the pilot study where Brookhaven researchers used biofuel — specifically “B-20,” a blend of low-sulphur heating oil and 20 percent soy biodiesel — at Theodore Roosevelt’s estate at Sagamore Hill.

In his essay, Feinberg, who was the grand-prize winner in 2008, wrote about bonfires sparked by Paleolithic men rubbing two sticks together to the coal-burning locomotives of the 19th century, and the gas-guzzling automobiles of today. Feinberg’s essay, titled, “A Pop[u]lar Solution,” refers to Brookhaven research studying the effect of various bacterial species on the growth of poplar trees. Since poplar trees can survive in low-nutrient soil, that would be an incentive to grow them for biofuel production instead of using agricultural crops like corn.

In addition, six honorable mention prizes of $50 each were awarded to: Taha Adib, Roslyn High School; Tiffany Lai and Brian Ralph, Smithtown West High School; Alex Spangher, Lucas Spangher, and Brittany Vaharella, Smithtown East High School.

The Laboratory’s Office of Educational Programs managed the essay contest, and Brookhaven Science Associates, the company that manages the Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, sponsored the contest. Friends of Brookhaven, a Laboratory employee organization, started the essay contact ten years ago.

Tags: education

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