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ACPS Students Earn 55 Awards at Regional Science Fair, Including Both “Best in Show” Honors

DATE: April 15, 2019
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049

Albemarle County Public Schools Students Earn 55 Awards at Regional Science Fair, Including Both “Best in Show” Honors

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Albemarle County Public Schools students earned both Best in Show Awards at the 38th annual Virginia Piedmont Regional Science Fair recently held in John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia. Overall, students from Albemarle, Western Albemarle, and Monticello high schools received 49 awards at the show, including 11 first place awards in the 15 show categories. Students from Sutherland Middle School received six awards in their division, including a first place in Electrical & Mechanical Engineering.

Libby Terrell, a Western Albemarle High School junior, won Best in Show and first place in Medicine & Health Sciences for her project, “The Effect of a Low Carbohydrate Diet on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors.” Her study tested whether lower carbohydrate diets improve cardiovascular health. The diets did not limit the intake of fats, but did reduce added sugars. Those who volunteered to follow the diets lost weight over a six-week period and improved their cholesterol results compared to a control group.

“The health and wellness implications of this study make its value much more than simply an interesting science exercise,” said Carol Stutzman, Libby’s science teacher at Western Albemarle. “Although a small study, it does indicate that lower-carb diets with less processed foods can improve heart health,” she said.

The second Best in Show was earned by Paula Zhu, an Albemarle High School junior, for her first place project in Cellular & Molecular Biology. Her study, “3-D Spatiotemporal Profiling of Adrenergic and Cholinergic Transmission,”¬¬¬ developed and analyzed the first real-time visualizations of live neurotransmissions in the brain on a nanometer scale. These neurotransmissions are impaired in such conditions as autism, depression, and Alzheimer’s.

Libby and Paula automatically qualified for the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, which will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, from May 12-17.

In addition to Paula Zhu, all of the other first-place category winners from Albemarle County Public Schools are students of Kirsten Fuoti, who teaches at Albemarle High School’s Math, Engineering & Science Academy (MESA).

“These projects have been in development all school year, some even longer than that,” Ms. Fuoti said. “I love that they are completely student-designed and managed. So many of the topics that were the subject of these projects have community-wide significance, such as making our environment healthier, improving human relationships, and even fostering better decision-making by consumers,” she said.

Among the first-place winners from Albemarle High School are:

  • Landon Allan and Kate Fard, for their Environmental Management project that studied the ability of rain gardens to filter out contaminants from runoff water.
  • Ethan Cha and Benny Bigler-Wang, for their Microbiology project that confirmed that natural, plant-based oils could be comparable to commercial, alcohol-based hand sanitizers in eliminating bacteria and maintaining skin health.
  • Kylie Heapes and Maggie Weber, who demonstrated in their Chemistry project that nitrogen flushing best extends the shelf-life of milk with higher fat contents.
  • Reese Hertel and Jack Kelly, for their Plant Sciences study that found that adding particles of a drought resistant plant in the watering of corn, soybeans and wheat could increase the drought resistance of all three crops.
  • In Physics & Astronomy, Dhara Liyanage and Ryleigh Katstra, who tested the specific impact that the number of stokes per minute has on the speed of a boat.
  • Isabelle Pardue, for her research project in Behavioral & Social Sciences, which looked at the association between various facial symmetry ratios and perceptions of physical attractiveness, finding that symmetrical perfection does not necessarily indicate perceived beauty.
  • Ira Rosner, for his project in Energy & Transportation that determined that higher ocean temperatures caused by climate change could be reversed by utilizing floating solar farms, which also would generate clean energy.
  • Samuel Rosner, for his Mathematical Sciences project that tested the effectiveness and behavior of a computer program he designed that created players who learn cooperation skills within the well-known strategic game theory, the prisoner’s dilemma.
  • Grant Williams and Blake Wiese, who examined how the shape of a kayak’s hull alters its speed capabilities for their project in Electrical & Mechanical Engineering.

In the junior division, Sutherland’s Vivian Hui earned first place for her Electrical & Mechanical Engineering project that analyzed how robotic lawn mowers performed on different types of slopes.

According to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, millions of students worldwide compete each year in local and school-sponsored science fairs. The winners of these events go on to participate in Society-affiliated regional and state fairs in order to qualify for the international event.

Approximately 1,800 high school students from more than 75 countries, regions and territories participate in the international fair to showcase their independent research and compete for up to $4 million in prizes.

The 2019 Awards Program, including a complete list of award recipients from the 38th annual Virginia Piedmont Regional Science Fair, is available online at


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