Science Research Drives District Science Fair
• Local students compete at the annual District Science Fair.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District held its annual Science and Engineering Fair at the Botanical Gardens on Thursday, Feb 21. Students from Peninsula High and Palos Verdes High participated with projects related to various science fields.
Of the 100 projects submitted, Peninsula High senior Sina Moshfeghi placed second in the Medicine and Health Category and will be competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF).
His project, titled Transdermal Lactate Collection with Agarose Gels for Noninvasive and Painless Monitoring of Patients, aims to create noninvasive medical diagnostic exams that will allow doctors to detect illnesses earlier on.
Moshfeghi has been a part of Science Research since his sophomore year and has competed in the science fair every year.
Moshfeghi’s project battles the issues of painful and expensive diagnostic exams such as blood tests, which results in improper administration to detect fatal illnesses such as sepsis and heart failure while at a time period that is still treatable. His project involves using hydrogels to absorb human fluid and electrochemical sensors to analyze biomarkers in the fluid to make accurate diagnoses.
“My project specifically tested the absorption of the lactate and glucose biomarkers, which can be used to detect sepsis, heart failure and diabetes, with the hydrogel method,” Moshfeghi said.
“I created the hydrogels by heating a buffer solution with a 3 percent agarose powder concentration and allowing it to cool in a mold. Before experimenting with human subjects, I conducted in vitro tests with porcine skin to identify all the factors that will influence the absorbed concentration and to optimize the experimental design.”
“After establishing an accurate procedure,” Moshfeghi said, “I began testing the method on human subjects, mostly volunteers from the lab. I would ask them to undergo a thorough sterilization procedure to clear any sweat residue on their fingers.”
He analyzed 54 different tests and discovered the method which he believes demonstrates a hopeful future for making all diagnostic procedures noninvasive, painless, cheap and effective.
From a young age, Moshfeghi was interested in engineering, which he has incorporated into his years of research.
His knowledge of technology in the biomedical field is what spurred his project, and he began working at UCLA’s Integrated and Interconnected Bioelectronics Lab to fulfill his goals. While at UCLA, he discovered the lab’s failed attempts to establish the procedure and decided to work on bringing the concept to life.
His efforts paid off, as he is advancing to Intel ISEF, a convention where students from more than 70 countries convene to showcase their research.
“I am beyond excited to be representing Palos Verdes Peninsula High School at the Intel ISEF,” Moshfeghi said. “It is a huge honor to be selected as one of 1,700 high school researchers internationally, and I intend to show everyone just how scientifically inclined Peninsula can be. Ever since I started competing in science fairs, my dream has been to compete at the ISEF. I expect to meet new friends of various backgrounds, encounter phenomenal research and hopefully come home with an award.”
Moshfeghi plans on furthering his project and enhance what he already is working on.
“I enjoy competing in science fairs because I get to interact with judges who have specialized in the field of my research,” Moshfeghi said.
“Getting feedback from professionals allows me to reflect on my methods and improve as a result of it. Additionally, I meet new people at every fair I attend, and always learn something new from them.”
For the young scientists and researchers, Science Fair provided them an opportunity to display what they have learned and a platform for them to share their ideas.
“I encourage anyone who is not already in science research to consider joining,” Moshfeghi said. “I think many students tend to believe that everything has already been invented or that they are too young to be a researcher or inventor,: he said.
“You would be surprised by what you can accomplish if you are truly engaged by a topic. I certainly did not believe that I could make a difference at this age until I participated in science research. My time researching in labs and corporations has given me a new perspective, and I am sure it can for you too,” he said.
Previous Intel ISEF competitor, senior Christina An, also emphasizes the opportunities offered for her as a result of her participation in Science Research. She recounts her time at Intel ISEF and shows her appreciation of being able to compete and win the competition.
“One thing I recommend is to use that week to the fullest by talking to anyone and everyone because it is really about the people you meet and build connections with,” An said. “Honestly you can meet such inspiring people there and the fact that you are being recognized internationally is awesome.”