Locust Valley High School Senior, Melissa Bales, has been named an Intel Science Talent Search Semifinalist.  She is one of only 57 high school students across Long Island to receive this honor. Throughout the nation, Melissa is one of only 300 to achieve semifinalist status, and will be awarded a $1,000 prize.

Melissa is now in the running for a spot as a finalist. Of the 300 semifinalists, Intel will announce 40 finalists on January 26th. These finalists will go on to compete in Washington DC in March for the grand prize of $100,000.

LVHS seniors Nickas Argirios and Mark Vessalico also submitted projects to the Intel competition. Science Research Coordinator Chris Hoppner said that all three students deserve recognition for the intense dedication they put into their research. He added, “I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication that Melissa puts into all of her research endeavors. She is the epitome of what a true research scientist is, and her strenuous work ethic and natural curiosity will take her very far in life.”

Melissa’s research project, entitled “Jaws Bites Back: Ciguatera Poisoning: Fallout from the Fin Trade” studied the possibility of Bioaccumulation of a toxin found in fish.  This means that certain fish (in her case, the Yellow Finned Mojara) are more likely to carry the Cigutera Toxin, and as larger fish like sharks eat more and more of these fish, the toxin increases in their tissue.  So, in countries which eat Shark Fin Soup as a delicacy, residents may stand a risk of ingesting this toxin by eating the soup. Melissa theorized that since Lemon Sharks have a diet that is made up of more than 50 percent  of the Yellow Fin, people who eat this shark fin could get seriously ill. Melissa ‘s research included tissue study at SUNY Stony Brook.

Congratulations to all of the participants and good luck to Melissa in the next round of the competition!