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LHS Student Wins National Science Competition

Jeannine Huenemann


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Gary Zhan advances to national science fair competition
Logan High student Gary Zhan advances to national science fair competition Credit: Eli Lucero/Herald Journal

USU STARS! GEAR UP student Gary Zhan was featured in the news recently for advancing to a national science competition. Zhan, a freshman at Logan High School, received first place at a regional science fair in Ogden for his blue dye project, making him eligible for the Broadcom MASTERS Science and Engineering Project Showcase in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 19 to 24.

Reporter Kevin Opsahl said in an Oct. 10 article in The Herald Journal that “Zhan became interested in synthetic blue dyes after learning about his friend’s condition. ‘His nose would always be inflamed, and he would always be coughing,’ Zhan said. One synthetic blue dye, called Blue 1, is commonly used in food coloring and an inactive ingredient for certain drugs, but it can cause harm to some people for its toxicity.

One alternative to Blue 1 is indigoidine. Certain bacteria can grow it, but the process involved to make it is expensive, Zhan said. He knew that a promoter in the DNA code triggered cells to make the dye, but that promoter can start working too soon when the temperature is warmer. Since the blue dye molecule folds when it is cooler, Zhan introduced a different promoter into the bacteria to make indigoidine. ‘Think of it as a switch: Sometimes, the switch is turning on too early, and then our materials are being wasted,’ he said. ‘We want the switch to turn on at a certain time, at a cold temperature.’”

Fox 13 News reporter Carley Porter said on Oct. 24 that “Zhan from Logan received second place in the technology category from the Broadcom MASTERS competition for improving upon a way to make an alternative to synthetic blue dye using bacteria. He also received the Scott A. McGregor Leadership Award after fellow finalists elected him to represent their class as a speaker at the awards ceremony.”

Last year, other winning science fair students at Logan High School were coordinated and coached by Shaunda Wenger, and will be organized by Christina Howell in the coming year. USU STARS! GEAR UP funding supports STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related clubs and activities in participating schools across the state.

The USU STARS! program encourages students to work hard in school, learn things outside of class, and challenge themselves to grow their knowledge and skills. Zhan and the other students that participated in last year’s science fair at Logan High are excellent examples of students getting the most out of their high school experience in preparation for college and life.

Press: The Herald Journal | Utah Public Radio | Fox13 | KUER Radio | WSU Today