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Good Hope Senior Invited to Present Paper

May 22, 2005 – Laura Zimmerman, a senior at The Good Hope School, has been invited to present her science fair research findings at the International Association of Forensic Scientists Triennial Conventional in Hong Kong this August 2005. Ms. Zimmerman, who will be attending the West Virginia University School of Forensic Science this fall, conducted her research locally and presented an abstract to the association entitled, "The Presence of Phenobarbital in Sour Sop."
Working under the auspices of Jane Coles, Science Department Chair at Good Hope, Diana Freas-Lutz, Laboratory Supervisor at UVI, and Dr. Davila of the Institute of Forensic Science of Puerto Rico, Ms. Zimmerman's semester-long project began as her entry into the Good Hope-Intel Science Fair, a project which won her a place in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair this month in Phoenix, Arizona. (Good Hope holds the Territory's only Intel-affiliated science fair.) Originally entitled "Natural and Harmful," Ms. Zimmerman wanted to find out for herself the truth behind the popular stories she had learned growing up on St. Croix about the soporific effects of sour sop tea. This question led her to explore several of the published West Indian studies affirming the narcotic effects of sour sop and to then compare these findings with her own hard research, conducted at the Forensics Institute of Puerto Rico.
Contrary to popular and published studies, Ms. Zimmerman isolated only miniscule amounts of Phenobarbital in the repeated testing of St. Croix's sour sop. "It seems to be a myth," Ms. Zimmerman said, "that the Phenobarbital in this tree's leaves causes sleep." Her research was seconded by two, fine researchers, Diana Freas-Lutz and Dr. Davila, who assisted Ms. Zimmerman in restructuring her science fair project to present to the IAFS. "But you must never underestimate the power of a placebo," Ms. Zimmerman advised.
Inaugurated in 1957, the IAFS is the only worldwide association to bring together academics and practicing professionals of various disciplines in forensic science. They include: forensic scientists, who are generally responsible for autopsies and for clinical forensic medicine ; those working in police, government or private forensic laboratories, dealing with fingerprints, biochemical grouping, drug analysis, toxicology, ballistics, traces evidence examination, accident reconstruction, etc.; and those working in other branches of forensic science, such as forensic psychiatry, physical anthropology, medical law and bioethics, forensic odontology, etc. The aims and objectives of the IAFS are to develop the forensic sciences and to assist forensic scientists around the world to exchange scientific and technical information.
Ms. Zimmerman was joined at the Intel-ISAF by Paul Jacobs, who won both an Honorable Mention in the overall competition of 1800 students from around the world, as well the 4th Place Mathematics Grand Award out of the 400 mathematics projects presented; as well as senior Issa Ashwash, sophomores Bobby Thompson and Christian Bracy, and freshman Leah Guthrie. The Good Hope School's science fair is the only Intel-affiliated fair in the Virgin Islands.
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