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Strong showing as 61 LI teens named Intel semifinalists

Photos from this point are of the 52

Photos from this point are of the 52 Long Island semifinalists in the Intel science competition.

Five Jericho High School students are all smiles after learning they are Intel semifinalists on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2009. Top left: Zachary Porges, Brittany Hsu, Brandon Li. Bottom left: Yvette Leung, and Pragya Kakani. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Sixty-one teenage science whizzes from Long Island captured semifinalist slots Wednesday in the nation's oldest high school research contest, with projects on subjects ranging from the impact of school bullying to the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

The latest winners' list in the annual Intel science competition marks another coup for the region and the state, which have dominated the contest in recent decades. Island schools alone produced more than 20 percent of this year's 300 semifinalists - more than California, Texas and Massachusetts combined.

>>PHOTOS: Long Island semifinalists
>>MORE: List of the 61 LI semifinalists

"I'm ecstatic, almost speechless," said Brittany Hsu, 17, one of five semifinalists at Jericho High School. Hsu's winning research project involved development of filters for cleansing water of arsenic and other toxic chemicals.

Winning didn't come easily, however. Hundreds of the Island's 12th-graders submitted projects this year as usual, and New York State as a whole generated 1,027 entries out of a total 1,736 nationwide. The state had 105 semifinalists, mostly from downstate suburbs and New York City.

Despite the long odds against winning, veteran teachers say student competitors reap rewards that cannot be measured in prizes alone, including the ability to write 20-page research papers, an invaluable skill in college.

"I'm happy for the ones who win, and my heart goes out to those who don't," said Patricia Nardi, a social science adviser at George W. Hewlett High School, which entered 10 projects in the Intel contest this year and came away with three semifinalists.

Ward Melville High School in East Setauket extended its longtime record as the region's top producer of Intel winners, with seven semifinalists. They include Ruoyi Jiang, 17, who last month won a $100,000 top prize in the national Siemens science contest.

The Intel competition, launched in 1942 with funding from Westinghouse Corp., now bears the name of the California-based producer of computer chips, which has taken over sponsorship. Each semifinalist wins $1,000 and an equal amount for his or her school. Forty finalists will be named later this month to compete in March for more than $630,000 in top prizes.

>>PHOTOS: Long Island semifinalists
>>MORE: List of the 61 LI semifinalists

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