Congratulations to all of the students who presented their research at the New Mexico Junior Academy of Science competition.
1st Place – Aditya Kiran Koushik, La Cueva High School, Albuquerque
Designing a Monte Carlo python computer program to model random mutations across T-cell resistant sequences and hotspots in the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein
The purpose of this experiment is to use Monte Carlo simulations in the Python programming software to predict sporadic mutations in T-cell resistant sequences and hotspots of the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein. First, the IEDB library was used to get 48 well-validated T-cell epitopes in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Then, using Monte Carlo simulations in Python (MC-P), the number of random mutations needed to change a 9-mer T-cell resistant sequence into a T-cell epitope was recorded. Next, in a separate MC-P model, the number of cycles it took to randomly replace a single amino acid in the 9-mer stretch of spike protein to a new highly transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2 (D614G, V483A, G4765, and L54F) was recorded. My results show that; 1) Randomly altering amino acids in the 9-mer T-cell resistant sequence (“VLYQDVNCT”) for 10,000,000 cycles didn’t match any of the 48 T-cell epitopes. 2) Single point mutations (D614G, V483A, G4765, and L54F) took an average of 6-7 cycles when ran through the program. Therefore, the conversion of a T-cell resistant sequence into a T-cell epitope is rare, and single point mutations in spike protein are more frequent, which could result in highly transmissible variants of the virus.
2nd Place – Karin Ebey, Los Alamos High School
Climate change on crocodilians: modeling the effects of phenological shifts
Climate change is causing precipitation and temperature patterns to change, and in response species are undergoing phenological shifts, changes in reproductive timing. To explore the effects of phenological shifts on crocodilian’s response to climate change, a model was created, using a novel adaptation of the Lotka-Volterra equations, of a crocodilian population in an ecosystem. Rainfall impacts plant populations, and temperature affects plant growth, energy needs, and ectotherm hatch rates. The model was validated by running with Louisiana rainfall and temperature data and comparing the model outputs with alligator nest count data. First, variations in the timing and magnitude of rainfall and temperature were examined. Populations increase when there is more rainfall overall or during the growing season and decrease with less. Temperature changes harm ectotherms due to suboptimal temperatures for hatching. Then phenological shifts were added. Phenological shifts result in populations increasing if reproduction occurs at a better time in terms of prey availability and temperature. However, phenological shifts do not significantly alter the qualitative ecosystem response. Species-specific phenological shifts based on different cues do not affect other species. Using the results, management implications were developed with recommendations to protect crocodilians from climate change.
3rd Place – McKenna Collins, Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science
Just passing through: using hemispheric sensing with trajectory prediction to mechanically dodge space debris
Space debris, even at the size of a grain of sand, can cause irreparable damage to a multimillion-dollar satellite in an instant. Satellites typically dodge space debris via an orbital maneuver using some of their finite fuel supply. However, doing so can negatively affect length of the mission life span. To avoid space debris without propellant, new satellite systems could be divided into multiple subsections to perform mechanical orbital maneuvers. This approach requires an onboard detection system capable of calculating the predicted trajectory of localized space debris. To detect debris near the satellite, minimize ground-to-satellite communications, and flag potential threats from space junk, the onboard detection system comprised of multiple sensors can be implemented along with a trilateration algorithm. In this approach, a satellite would be sectionalized, its pieces mechanically separated, then reintegrated, after the theoretically detected space debris would pass through the more vacant center of mass. To model this, prototypes were designed, built, and tested. After demonstrating preliminary functionality, the prototypes were tested for separation distance and frequency of successful detection, separation, and reintegration cycles, the latest prototype the most promising. Sensor characterization tests concluded that individual calibration curves and direct sunlight impact interchangeability.
4th Place – Gabriel Gurule, Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science
Solving the issue of inefficiency for multiple faceted variable energy systems
This project is a continuation to solve inefficiency on multiple faceted variable energy systems. Physics concepts were applied to engineer and design a 3D printed wind turbine blade with solar cells embedded into a structure to generate supplemental electricity output. A major disadvantage of conventional wind turbines is intermittency and failure to produce electricity when the wind resource is compromised. An innovative approach that combines twin technologies can overcome inefficient and variable renewable energy systems. Further, the material properties of the turbine’s blades can be adjusted such that the system is economically viable through the end of life. The researcher for this project has applied for and received a provisional patent to advance this technology. This year a utility patent was filed which demonstrates that the standards have been met to satisfy legal requirements to move toward commercialization.
The New Mexico Academy of Science, in conjunction with the National Youth Science Foundation has selected two delegates to represent New Mexico at the 2021 National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp). High school seniors with demonstrated accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as well as leadership skills are invited to apply. Each state selects two delegates from qualified applicants.
Karin Ebey and Othello Gamboa are the 2021 New Mexico delegates. Ebey, a senior at Los Alamos High School, has distinguished herself locally and nationally with her research on population dynamics in crocodilians. Gamboa, who attends NM School for the Arts, is interested in NYSCamp so he can delve more deeply into the connections between the arts and sciences.
Since 1963, NYSCamp has offered a program to honor and challenge some of the nation’s rising STEM leaders and provide them with opportunities to engage with STEM professionals. Camp has traditionally been a residential program hosted in the eastern mountains of West Virginia. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the 2021 NYSCamp will be an entirely virtual experience.
Support from the National Youth Science Foundation (http://www.nysf.com) allows Ebey and
Gamboa to attend the NYSCamp program free of charge. For more information about the program, please see http://www.nyscamp.org. Delegate recruitment and selection are coordinated locally by the New Mexico Academy of Science.
NM State Selection Coordinator for NYSCamp
Board Member New Mexico Academy of Science
The 2021 NMAS Board of Directors is being led by President Gretchen Gurtler; President-Elect Dr. Anton Sumali; and Vice-President Dr. Babu Chalamala. The officers have backgrounds in paleontology, mechanical engineering, and physics. Their wide-ranging expertise will provide a solid background for the coming years.
The Academy is led this year by President Gretchen Gürtler, the Director of Museums at Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center in Abiquiu, NM. She began serving on the board in 2015 as a Director at Large. Ms. Gürtler holds a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts degree in Museum Science from Texas Tech University, where she conducted paleontological research. She is the advocacy representative for New Mexico Association of Museums, a board member of The New Mexico Partnership for Math and Science Education (NMPMSE) through New Mexico First, and a participant in New Mexico Informal Science Education Network (NMISE).
Dr. Anton Sumali is the 2021 President-Elect of the New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS). Dr. Sumali received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 1997 from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA and is currently a Research and Development Manager at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. Dr. Sumali was an R&D staff member there from 2002 to 2011. From 1997 to 2002, Dr. Sumali was an Assistant Professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Dr. Sumali has served on NMAS Board since 2013. As the new Editor-in-Chief of the New Mexico Journal of Science, Dr. Sumali has attracted manuscripts and formed an editorial board for the journal with peer-reviewers from Sandia National Labs, UNM, Harvard, Intel, Princeton, ENMU, MIT, Oxford, and other research institutions..
Serving in 2021 as Vice President is Dr. Babu R. Chalamala. He is Manager of the Energy Storage Technology and Systems Department and Laboratory Program Manager for Grid Energy Storage at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM. Prior to joining Sandia in 2015, he spent twenty years in industrial R&D, mostly recently as a Corporate Fellow at MEMC Electronic Materials where he led R&D and product development in grid scale energy storage.
Dr. Chalamala spent the early part of his research career at Motorola and Texas Instruments where he made contributions to electronic materials and display technologies. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, Academy of Sciences St Louis, and a Life Member of the Electrochemical Society. Dr. Chalamala has a PhD in Physics from the University of North Texas and has authored 120 papers and has 10 US patents.
Other members of the board can be found on the Board page.
CLIMATE CHANGE ON CROCODILIANS: MODELING THE EFFECTS OF VARIATIONS IN RAINFALL ON CROCODILIANS AND THEIR ECOSYSTEM
Karin Ebey, Los Alamos High School, Los Alamos
Climate change is projected to cause significant changes to global precipitation patterns. To explore how crocodilians and their ecosystems are impacted by variations in rainfall, a model of was created using a novel adaptation of the Lotka-Volterra equations. The model uses a time step of months, and includes a crocodilian, three plant species, and eight other animal species. Each year, populations are impacted by predator-prey interactions and reproduction. Rainfall only impacts the ecosystem through the plant populations. This model was validated by running it with Louisiana rainfall data from 1970-2018 and comparing the outputs to measured alligator nest count data. The populations in the model followed a similar pattern to the nest count data, showing that the model accurately describes how rainfall affects the ecosystem. Changes in the amount of rainfall caused the populations to increase or decrease in proportion to the rainfall. Changes in the timing of rainfall affected the seasonal variation of plant populations, which caused animal populations to increase or decrease depending on whether the plant populations were above or below average when they reproduce. Crocodilians and their ecosystems are likely to be harmed by climate change and developing management programs will be important to protect them.
By Lynn Brandvold, NMJAS Director
The American Academy of Science (AJAS) is an Honor Society for students who have done outstanding scientific research projects and is a program of the National Association of Academies of Science (NAAS) of which NMAS is a member. AJAS meets annually in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. Each State Academy nominates students who are invited to attend the conference and be inducted into the AJAS Honor Society. The program is not a competition but rather an opportunity for national exposure to science professionals from colleges and laboratories.
During a normal year the event starts on a Wednesday evening and concludes on a Saturday evening. During the conference, AJAS delegates tour local institutions of scientific importance, share their research with their peers and with other scientists, attend conference sessions, and are inducted as lifetime Fellows into the American Junior Academy of Science. They present their posters to the AAAS attendees and give oral presentations to each other.
Prior to 2009 NMJAS had the funds to send students and a chaperone to the national conference, but in recent years have not had the funding. Winners of our NMJAS state research paper competition were notified that they were eligible to attend but would need to provide or raise their own funding. Unfortunately, none of the students accepted the invitation.
This year, because of the pandemic things are different and the conference is being held virtually with very minimal registration fees. The opportunity to attend was offered to the top three 2020 state competition winners. The first place winner, Karin Ebey, accepted the invitation and since every student must have a chaperone, I get to attend also! Karin has submitted her abstract and poster titled “Modeling the Effects of Variations in Rainfall on Crocodilians and Their Ecosystems”. Posters and oral presentations will take place virtually. Most of the presentations and sessions will take place in February but Karin and I have already had the opportunity to watch a keynote address and attend a special session in which students could ask the presenters questions. Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of the Plenary speakers, his talk is COVID-19 in 2021: Lessons Learned and Remaining Challenges. Karin and I are both looking forward to events in February.
NMAS sponsors the New Mexico competition for the Junior Academy of Science – a research paper competition designed to enrich the communication aspects of scientific research. This year, all competitions will be held virtually, mostly in March.
Are you able to judge? Details of the competition and dates can be found on the NJMAS page. Please contact Malva Knoll to find out more or volunteer to judge.
The New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS) presented two Outstanding Teacher Awards during the Annual Meeting / 2020 Research Symposium. These awards honor New Mexico science and math educators, and have been given since 1968. The Academy recognizes teachers who provide opportunities for students to succeed. Nominations are open to all science and math teachers in New Mexico. Each year the Academy honors two outstanding classroom or informal science teachers nominated from throughout New Mexico. The teachers are honored with awards at the NMAS Annual Meeting and also receive an award from our collaborative partner, the American Chemical Society.
In 2020, the Outstanding New Mexico Science Teachers are: Eva Abeyta and Lena Eddings.
One of our signature programs is the NM Junior Academy of Science paper competition. Students in grades 6-12 write a scientific paper and present their research with an oral PowerPoint. Students must complete research, but Science fair participation is not required. This year (like last year), the competition will be held via Zoom.
Download the flyer or visit our NMJAS page for details and resources.
The application deadline is February 16, 2021 for the March 4-5, 2021 virtual competition.
Thanks to all who voted in the November election for NMAS Board members. Congratulations to these elected members of the board:
New Mexico Academy of Science