W. T. Clarke High School senior Pavithran Ravindran has been named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search competition, the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competition. Pavithran was recognized for his research project, “Formation of Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) Inclusion Compounds with Urea and Thiourea.”
Only 300 high school seniors were named semifinalists in the competition. Semifinalists were selected from more than 1,800 entrants from 460 high schools in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and five American and international high schools overseas.
Pavithran will receive a $1,000 award from the Intel Foundation with an additional $1,000 going to W. T. Clarke High School.
Pavithran explained that Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate), or PHB, is a plastic with many medical applications, including as a possible drug-delivery system. The only issue with PHB, he explained, is that it is very brittle in its natural state, and natural plastics are randomly organized so it is difficult to study single chains by themselves. To try and understand single-chain PHB better, Pavithran encapsulated the plastic within two host molecules, urea and thiourea. After washing the host molecule away, the PHB was more organized since only single chains fit in the hosts. He then studied the crystallization behavior and found that the PHB from urea is less brittle and thus more feasible for medical applications.
His research was conducted at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University in Professor Nadarajah Vasanthan’s research lab this summer. W.T. Clarke High School research and biology teacher Erika Rotolo was also instrumental in Pavithran’s success.
“This is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened for me,” said Pavithran. “Ever since watching a documentary on the Intel Science Talent Search, my high school goal has been to reach this point where I am able to conduct research that, I feel, really makes an impact.”
Pavithran was recently accepted into Princeton University, and is currently waiting to hear responses from other colleges. He intends to study bioengineering.