Henry students heading to national science symposium

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Eagle’s Landing High School Schools senior Andrea Augustine wanted to use a recent competition as a way to learn more about how the brain works.

“I’ve always been interested in the brain and neuroscience,” she said. “I wanted to study neurodegenerative diseases that have the power to cripple the controlling center of our bodies.”

Tommy Dorminy and Andrea Augustine are moving on to the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in San Diego, California after their research projects were selected. Special photo

Augustine, 17, of McDonough recently won a trip to the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in San Diego, Calif., set for next month.

Augustine and Tommy Dorminy of McDonough were among 50 students who presented research projects at a statewide JSHS event and secured spots in the national competition. Augustine won third place at the state competition, and a $1,000 scholarship, while Dorminy placed fifth.

For her research project, Augustine focused on a mechanism in the brain which causes early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, known as the beta-amyloid peptide.

“I studied the peptide at the molecular level to stop the onset of disease at the molecular level, to not let it go any further than it has to,” she explained. “I basically characterized the effect of a single amino acid change in the beta-amyloid peptide that leads to early-onset Alzheimer’s and confirmed that the single amino acid change (from glutamic acid to glutamine in the 22nd position of the peptide) does indeed have an impact so large on the entire self-assembly process of the peptide, that it causes a 20-year difference in the onset of disease.”

Augustine said she was “absolutely stunned” to win third place in the competition.

“I was honored, of course,” she said. “Being able to place third among these amazing 50 projects was definitely humbling for me.”

Augustine plans to attend Rice University in Houston, Texas on a full-ride scholarship, majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology with a minor in Neuroscience. In addition to the upcoming national competition, she is preparing to present her research at the Georgia State Science and Engineering Fair.

“I’m also working on publishing my research as well,” she noted.

Dorminy, 19, is no stranger to academic competitions. He has won trips to the State Science Fair and the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environmental Project Olympiad for the last three years.

For his latest endeavor, Dorminy sought out a way to become more energy-efficient in the 21st century.

“I created a device that harvested waste energy from humans moving around, like walking or shifting -- general moving,” he said. “I used this energy that I collect to power devices like cell phones. It would allow people who need to move around a lot, and still need to have access to electrical power but don’t have time to use an electrical outlet, to be able to do so.”

Dorminy was pleased by the results of the device he created.

“It actually works really well,” he said. “Some of the results that I got were that 30 minutes of walking gives you two hours of ability to charge your cell phone. I didn’t get how significant they were until I saw devices that were similar that only harvested energy at only hour of charging for every hour you walk.”

Dorminy said he was surprised to land a spot at next month’s national event.

“I was not expecting it,” he said. “I was shocked.”

Dorminy will return to California in May for the International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, along with Marissa McDonald and Kyle Carden from Union Grove High School. Dorminy’s sister, Susie, will attend the 2017 ISWEEEP Olympiad in Houston to present her research.

Tommy Dorminy plans to attend Baylor University in the fall, majoring in mechanical engineering.

For more information, visit http://jshs.org.