Webb Students Shine at County Science Fair; 2 Advance to Regeneron International

Webb juniors Garry Zhang and Sehoon Kang

Webb students Sehoon Kang ’24 and Garry Zhang ’24 will compete this May in the world’s largest pre-college STEM competition with a project that seeks ways to extract an environmentally friendly solvent from carbon dioxide.

The duo automatically qualified for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2023 after taking first place with the in the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair this spring.

Their project tested six kinds of metal-organic frameworks in seeking a way to generate the green solvent.

“When I heard the news, I was incredibly excited – and even more so when I learned we had one of only two projects that qualified for the Regeneron fair,” Zhang said.

“I am excited to see other great projects from student researchers from around the world, and I hope our project makes an impact by inspiring other student scientists,” Kang added.  “Also, it would be amazing to win some cool prizes.”

The students created their project during Webb’s Science Fair Research Lab afternoon activity – as did students who created 11 other projects receiving honors at the L.A. County science fair, held March 13-14. The research lab is supervised by Joe Martin and Lisa Nacionales, who is also chair of Webb’s Science Department.

The duo credited Nacionales, Martin and Webb Director of Experiential Education Dr. Susanna Linsley for guiding them and connecting them to a Pomona College professor.

“Without them, our research wouldn’t have been possible,” Zhang said. “We also really appreciate the passion of students in the science fair research lab afternoon activity who constantly inspired us to overcome challenges throughout the long research.”

Four Webb students from the afternoon activity earned second place awards in their respective categories:

  • Petrina Ong ’24 won in Animal Physiology for her investigation into how neurotransmitters affect the regenerative capacities of a flatworm.
  • Michael Fu ’24 won in Engineering Applications for his design of an adaptable wheel that can more easily conquer vertical barriers.
  • Bill Sun ’24 won in Environmental Management for a photobioreactor that grows algae to generate a green fuel source.
  • Eric Bi ’25 won in Mathematics & Computer Sciences for a project that used a natural language processing model to extract drug-to-drug interactions from medical papers.

Three students won third place honors:

  • Yvette Shu ’23 won in Environmental Management for showing how much microplastic is shed by fast fashion brands when the fabrics are exposed to UV light.
  • Danny Wang ’25 won in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology for a project that pinpointed drug targets on influenza by analyzing RNA sequencing data.
  • Tony Gao ’26 won in Pharmacology for his investigation of the controlled under-expression of an insulin binding protein on geriatric diseases.

One student received an honorable mention:

  • Ryan Ho ’25 won in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology for a project that extracted DNA from honey and used a PCR test to identify which flowers were the source of the bees’ nectar.

Three students were recognized for their projects:

  • Jonas Sun ’25 won in Math & Computer Science for a project that addressed communication reduction via compression-aware training for efficient edge-cloud computing on AR/VR systems.
  • Kevin Wang ’24 won in Math & Computer Science for a project exploring the effects of using neural networks to generate music.
  • Elaine Tang ’24 and Chelsea Wei ’25 won in Microbiology for their project exploring the chemical inhibition of yeast growth.

In addition to the L.A. County science fair, Sun entered a second, even more demanding competition – the Southern California Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. He was among just 15 participants chosen for the symposium, held Feb. 25 at California State University, Bakersfield.

“I am incredibly proud of all the science fair activity students for their curiosity and dedication to applying the scientific process to answer their questions,” Nacionales said. “The students who attended the science fair put in many hours in the lab doing the challenging and often unglamorous work of testing, troubleshooting and repeating experiments to get their results. They should be commended for their determination, resilience and creativity. Garry and Sehoon automatically qualifying for ISEF is a testament to their passion, knowledge, innovative spirit and hard work.” 

March 24, 2023

6:00 AM PDT