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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Hey tech giants, budding scientists need your support

The Intel logo on the exterior of its

The Intel logo on the exterior of its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2011. Credit: AP

Hello, Apple. Hey there, Google. I've got a proposition for you.

There's a national high school science competition I'm sure you've heard of, the Intel Science Talent Search. It's been fabulously successful at sparking student research -- serious research on topics such as cancer, space, genetics and the environment.

But the contest needs a new sponsor. Intel says it's pulling out in 2017, ending what will be a 19-run since it took over from the former Westinghouse Corp. in 1998. The program costs $6 million a year. Yeah, chicken feed, right?

In our hyper-brand-conscious world, this is a brand you -- or any high-tech company -- would be proud to be associated with. One of Long Island's top student research coordinators, Serena McCalla of Jericho schools, has called the Intel competition the "Nobel Prize for high school research." That's more truth than hyperbole.

Full disclosure: Long Island has a very vested interest in this. Our kids do quite well in the competition. We've had at least one of the 40 national finalists, and as many as 11, every year going back at least to the 1980s. New York State overall has done well, but lately other states have stepped up the quality of their research, another indicator of the impact of the Intel program. There is lots of college scholarship prize money at stake, including three first-prize awards of $150,000 each.

Our winners over the years have ranged across the sciences.

Huntington's Aron Coraor did research on how the moon's surface was formed, Mayuri Sridhar of Kings Park studied a cancer-fighting protein, Jericho's Crystal Zheng worked on developing better ways to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other fear-based illnesses, and Hewlett's Eric Brooks sought an effective diagnostic tool to gauge the likelihood a patient's prostate cancer will become lethal.

Many of them are like Jericho's Neil Mehta, a finalist three years ago for a project that uncovered a correlation between a specific gene mutation and schizophrenia. Now he's a molecular biology major at Princeton University, entering his senior year. He told Newsday's John Hildebrand that the Intel competition sends a message to kids that science and problem-solving are cool. "That's a message," he said, "that should never go away."


We need to keep encouraging, celebrating and rewarding these students for their intellectual quests and triumphs.

So listen up, Apple, Google and you other tech giants. Put your brand on this competition. You won't regret it.

Michael Dobie is a member of the Newsday editorial board.