Middle Village teen makes Intel Science Talent Search semifinals

| mchan@queenscourier.com |

Photo courtesy the New York Daily News
Photo courtesy the New York Daily News

Aishvarya Arora is continuing the longstanding tradition of St. Francis Prep students making it to the semifinals of the Intel Science Talent Search

A Middle Village brainiac has brought bragging rights to the borough as the only Queens kid to make the semifinals in a prestigious national science competition.

Aishvarya Arora, 17, a senior at St. Francis Prep, made the second to last cut in this year’s Intel Science Talent Search, joining 300 of the country’s brightest high school seniors.

She did not advance to the finals, but the budding young scientist took home $1,000 and a coveted honor for her school.

“I’m extremely excited and very grateful,” said Arora, who spent two years developing an original research project on teenage body dysmorphic disorder, a psychological malady in which a person becomes obsessed about perceived or imagined flaws in appearance.

“I’ve had teachers stay after school and come in on weekends to work with me on this,” she said. “To be able to have all of their work and my work come into fruition means so much. They believed in me, and it wasn’t for nothing.”

Arora’s 23-page study found teenagers with the disorder show the same social cues as adults who suffer from the mental illness. After creating a 10-page survey, polling 120 students at school and analyzing data, she discovered both age groups perceive defects in their body images.

“It’s a pretty big deal now that we know this symptom is consistent with teens and adults,” the aspiring psychologist said.

Arora, who attends Prep on a full scholarship, has her eyes set on attending Wellesley College, Brown University or Vassar College, where she will double major in psychology and English.

“I’m on my way, which is exciting,” she said.

Prep has produced semifinalists for the past 15 years, but never a finalist, said science department chair Mary Ann Spicijaric.

“I think she did such a great job. The level of competition is so intense,” Spicijaric said. “To be one of 300 is still pretty, pretty good. We’re so proud of her.”

Jim Boylan, Arora’s science research advisor, touted the teen as the perfect student.

“To be able to watch her evolve and grow over the past four years has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced in my whole life,” he said. “There’s no one that’s more deserving than her.”

The contest’s 40 finalists, cut down from 1,700 entrants, will go on to vie for the top award of $100,000.