Montgomery Blair High School student Yuan (Chelsea) Zhang’s research on the molecular genetic mechanisms behind heart disease won her third place in the nation in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition. At a March 14 awards ceremony, Intel Corporation awarded Zhang a $50,000 college scholarship.
A senior in Blair’s Science, Mathematics, Computer Science Magnet Program, Zhang won the award for her project in the medicine and health category. Her project title is Oxidized LDL Metabolites Upregulate Expression of the Adhesion Molecule CX3CL1 in Primary Coronary Artery Smooth Muscle Cells.
Zhang investigated the molecular mechanisms behind atherosclerosis, or arterial plaque buildup, a disease in which lipid-laden macrophages (fat-filled white blood cells) build up in the vessel wall. The cell-adhesion chemokine molecule CX3CL1 has been implicated in the process. Zhang studied human cells to demonstrate that the adhesion of macrophages to arterial muscle cells was largely CX3CL1-dependent and that components of oxidized lipids increased its expression. She believes targeting the upregulation of CX3CL1 by oxidized lipids could yield drug treatments for atherosclerosis.
Zhang has perfect SAT scores in critical reading, math, and writing and has earned numerous awards in writing, science, and mathematics. She also is managing features editor of the school newspaper, Silver Chips, and is co-president of the Blair computer team. Born in China, she is fluent in Chinese. She hopes to attend MIT or Harvard to pursue a career in applying information technology to research.
Zhang was one of two Intel finalists from MCPS. The other finalist was Minh-Phuong Huynh-Le, also a Blair Magnet student. Her research project was titled Toward Understanding the Global Carbon Cycle: The Response of Soil Organic Matter to Changes in Forest Density and Flora. The two were among four finalists from Maryland and 40 finalists nationally who competed for the top 10 national awards. The finalists met at the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C., March 9-14, where they interacted with top scientists and participated in rigorous judging sessions.
The Science Talent Search, America’s oldest and most prestigious high school science competition, began in 1942 and has been sponsored by the Intel Corp. since 1998, in partnership with Science Service, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization.