It had been several weeks since PMHS senior Megan Ploch had secured a trip to compete in the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project (ISWEEEP) when she learned her close friend, fellow senior Rachel Radvany, would be joining her on the trip to Houston, Texas.
“Megan won through a competition and I won on a paper submission (later on), so when I found out, I called her and said, ‘Guess who is coming to Houston with you?’” Radvany said.
ISWEEEP is the world’s largest international science fair focusing on energy, engineering, and environment. Over 500 highly-qualified projects from over 60 countries were displayed in May at the George R. Brown Convention Center and the competition concluded with an awards ceremony.
Both Ploch and Radvany have been involved in the PMHS science research program for the past four years and have dedicated countless hours to an interest that was first cultivated in Middle School.
Their trip to Houston, where Ploch earned a Silver Medal for her research titled “Solar Powered UVC Treatment for Bacteria in Stormwater Overflow” and Radvany earned a Bronze Medal for her project titled “Myosin-IIA Heavy Chain Phosphorylation on Serine 1943 Regulates Breast Tumor Cell Invasion” was a culmination of years of hard work.
Ploch’s research, which she has been conducting since 8th grade, created a way to limit the deposit of bacteria into the Long Island Sound that occurs during times of excess rainfall. Radvany focused on tumor metastases in breast cancer cells and found that the phosphorus relation of myosin protein increases the spread of cancer.
“We didn’t have that high of hopes because everyone who is at that competition is already a winner,” said Ploch, who also attended ISWEEEP last year. “Basically you are taking the best from around the world and putting them all in one location and competing against that, so we were really excited to be recognized.”
In addition to being recognized for their hard work, both Ploch and Radvany said their trip to Houston was eye-opening as they collaborated and met with students from all over the world.
“That’s what I though was the coolest part, how there were over 60 countries there and people who barely even spoke English, but everyone tried so hard to be nice and friendly,” said Radvany, who will attend Duke University. “We met a girl from Nigeria who was working on a project with chicken pox and we don’t think that that’s a problem here, but in Nigeria, it’s one of the most common diseases.”
Ploch added, “The problems they were solving were so different than the problems we were solving. Every time you go to an international competition, it’s amazing not only to see the people from your own country with their projects, but also people from around the world.”
The success at ISWEEEP was just the latest accolade from the PMHS Science Research program, that continues to rack up awards and honors year after year. The group, which is advised by Science Teacher Steve Beltecas competes several times throughout the school year and most recently held its final symposium of the year on May 30.
“When we are working together, we’re a team,” said Ploch, who will attend Georgia Institute of Technology. “We’re constantly switching our laptops, critiquing eachother, people are presenting to their friends…”
“Research has become a family,” Radvany added. “It sounds cheesy, but there are 21 graduating seniors and we’re all such good friends. . . There will be tears shed.”