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PHS senior going on to national science competition


Ian Fleming

Petersburg High School students arrived home with new knowledge and a national competitor in Ian Fleming after this weekend's Alaska High School Statewide Science Symposium.

Fleming, who placed second overall, will be heading to the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, in Maryland on April 29.

"I'm excited to go," he said; to meet fellow science students from around the country, listen to speakers and make a stop at the nation's capital. There will be about 230 students in attendance at the national symposium.

One of four senior AP (Advanced Placement) biology students who attended, it was Fleming's first time at the competition. He presented on herbicide's effects on hatching Coho salmon and said he didn't expect to be in the finals when his first day of competition didn't go as well as planned.

"I wasn't too sure how it would be when we got there," he added.

Fleming will be working with a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor through email and Skype to "fine tune" his work so he can present a "polished product" at nationals. He said the feedback from judges was also helpful.

Fleming spent about four months on his project - planning it, conducting it and then writing a presentation on it.

He still has work left to do, but added the final payoff will be getting to travel.

As a top five finalist in Alaska, Fleming also received a $1,500 scholarship to go toward any college of his choosing.

Summer Morton placed first out of eight in her category of microbiology, presenting on the possibility of the transformation of E. coli bacteria taking in GMO (genetically modified organism) DNA from corn. She won't be moving on to the national symposium as she received eighth place overall, but she said it is exciting getting to see what other students are working on, "how far we're learning."

Morton added that she had an idea of what to expect having participated the last two years, but that "the competition was a lot more intense this year."

AP biology teacher Joni Johnson said River Quitslund placed fifth in the plant science category while Kyle Hagerman "did well" but did not place.

Every year Petersburg High goes, the students do well, she added. Fleming is the third in five years to go on to the national symposium.

"It's a big deal," she said. "The exposure is fantastic."


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