Three Westchester County high school seniors Wednesday were chosen as finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search Competition 2013.

Chris Traver, 17, of Croton-Harmon High School; Jiayi Peng, 17, of Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua; and Daniel McQuaid, 17, of Ossining High School, all won $7,500 and a chance to compete for the $100,000 top prize in March. They are among just 40 students chosen as finalists nationwide.

Some 1,700 students entered the 2013 competition from 467 high schools in 42 states.

McQuaid and Traver said Wednesday that they were surprised to make it to the final round of the prestigious contest.

"My initial reaction was surprise. I wasn't really expecting it," Traver said. "It's awesome."

Entering the Intel competition is the culmination of three years of science research work by the students. Westchester County's science research students typically spend hours after school each day and entire summers with mentors investigating some of the most pressing questions in science.

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Traver investigated noise pollution, incorporating the work of citizen scientists who used smartphones to collect data. Peng looked at the dynamics of the brain's neural networks, and McQuaid is studying cancer treatments.

"I'm glad that the Intel STS people saw how great this project is," said Donna Light-Donovan, the Croton-Harmon science research teacher, of Traver's work.

In December, Peng's project also won the $50,000 second-place individual prize for the national Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. McQuaid was a regional finalist in the Siemens competition, in which he entered a different project that he worked on with a partner. In both of McQuaid's projects, he studied cancer therapies.

"I was pretty surprised," McQuaid said of the Intel award. "I was really, really excited."

Ossining science research teacher Angelo Piccirillo said McQuaid's win was fantastic for Ossining. He also noted that the region had more winners than in the past.

"It speaks to the very high quality of the research that's being done in the Westchester area," Piccirillo said.

In 2012, Benjamin van Doren of White Plains High School won a $30,000 fifth-place award for his project focusing on a rare behavior of nocturnal birds.

The students will compete March 7-13 for the top prize in Washington, where they will make presentations before the judges.