Jessica Huang, a senior at Jericho High School, was recently named a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search (STS), the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science and math competition.
Huang’s parents are immigrants from China, who came to America to pursue education, notably graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I’ve been raised to be in awe of learning,” said Huang, 17. “I like to believe I’m just a normal kid surrounded by incredible people and great opportunities. My pursuits are heavily based in math and science, but literature and the humanities never fail to impress me.”
For her Intel project, Huang studied fluid intelligence (Gf), the ability to reason through new problems. The Jericho senior believes Gf is poorly understood at the biological level, therefore her goal was to explore the biology of previous theories against one she designed. A dedicated math student with an innate understanding of the subject, Huang used biological techniques (fMRI scans) coupled with mathematic analyses to compare varied theories of Gf.
Her investigation included deciphering the most optimal Gf theory (regarding accuracy) using two parameters to minimize intrinsic confounds of existing studies: a multigraph k-way parcellation and multiple network summary statistics. Her proposed fMRI model of Gf achieved stronger predictive accuracy than existing models—clarifying understandings of Gf and potentially providing a new clinical tool to estimate cognitive decline and empower more comprehensive diagnoses in subjects incapable of written examinations, such as sufferers of stroke, ADHD and autism.
Huang enjoys running for the Jericho High School cross country team, reading, problem solving mathematics and she also dabbles in writing short stories when she is not working on her research. Although her college plans are undecided at the time, she hopes to study applied math and psychology and would like to be a professor, with a balance between research, learning and teaching.
“Jessica has worked over 1,600 hours on her research over the last three years. She is the first of my research students published as a full author in a Nature (Neuroscience) journal prior to becoming a 12th grade high school student,” said Dr. Serena McCalla, Jericho High School’s independent science research coordinator. “Jessica has proven herself as a diligent, motivated, and focused young achiever who continues to strive for excellence. Additionally, she is kind and humble and constantly thinks of others before herself; she is a phenomenal role model for students and adults alike.”
The 40 finalists receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. from March 10-16 to compete for more than $1 million in awards provided by the Intel Foundation, including three first-place Medal of Distinction awards of $150,000 each that will be presented to students who show exceptional scientific potential in three areas: basic research, global good and innovation. Additionally, three second-place awards of $75,000, and three third-place awards of $35,000 will be presented. Finalists receive at least $7,500 for being selected as part of this prestigious group.