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Student Scientists Honored for Work

Education: Research on brain functions, blood vessel infections win top medals at annual county science fair. The projects are among 120 advancing to state competition.


A Westwood seventh-grader who researched brain functions and a Palos Verdes Peninsula 11th-grader who investigated blood vessel infections won the top awards Thursday at the Los Angeles County Science Fair.

Michael Weston, who attends St. Paul the Apostle School, and Stephanie Lee, a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, won the highest medals in the junior and senior divisions, respectively.

They competed among 929 entries in the fair, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The top two projects were also among six entries honored in each of the fair's 20 themed categories. In all, 120 projects from Los Angeles County will advance to the California State Science Fair on May 20 and 21 at the California ScienCenter in Exposition Park.

Michael, a freckled 13-year-old in a Billabong T-shirt and khakis, shifted from foot to foot as he explained his behavioral science project, which tested whether people tend to be right-, left- or equally balanced.

Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 23, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Science fair--An article in Friday's California section misspelled the surnames of Michael Walston, who won the top prize in the Junior Division at the Los Angeles County Science Fair, and his mother, Beverly Walston.

"When I was younger, people would say I was right-brained, and I had no idea what they were talking about," he said, clutching a miniature pink plastic brain. "I thought there was only one brain."

In popular parlance, right-brained people tend to be artistic, left-brained to be more analytical.

Michael devised his own test and repeatedly gave it to 85 subjects over seven months. His analysis found that people were fairly evenly divided between the groups, although he also determined that most courses at his school were oriented toward the left-brained.

"We heard about families whose children went to schools that didn't require science fair projects," said Michael's mother, Beverly Weston. "For a while at the beginning [of his project], we were really wishing we had sent Michael to one of those schools. But it was worth it in the end to see how much Michael learned."

Stephanie's entry in the microbiology category attempted to establish a new method to study a fungus that targets blood vessels, particularly in people who have leukemia or diabetes.

Volunteer work at Torrance Memorial Hospital inspired the 16-year-old's project when she saw a patient with a mold-caused illness.

The first-time entrant started her project in July, when she began interning at a UCLA medical research center.

"I wanted to know what caused such a horrible infection," she said. "When the science fair came up, I thought, 'Wow, this is my chance to learn more about something I hardly know anything about.'"

Her display included photos of mucus-swollen eyes and a weathered blue journal that chronicles her project in small, neat writing.

Stephanie, who also writes for the school newspaper and is active in the debate and math clubs, said she isn't sure if she wants to pursue a career in medicine.

"I just know I want to go to college somewhere far away where they have four seasons," she said. "But as for right now, I'm just glad I have the chance to continue my research for next year's fair."

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