University High School junior Jay Maturi will be one of just 13 Indiana high school students to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) from May 14-19, 2017 in Los Angeles, CA.
Maturi’s research project, titled “Optimization of Cellobiase Function in Breakdown of Mushroom Cellulose Using Co-enzymes: A Model for Biofuel Enhancement,” earned third place among all 11th grade entries at the 29th Annual Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair on Saturday, April 1 at IUPUI. In addition to qualifying for the international fair, Maturi also won a plaque at the state fair, $100 for his third-place finish, and an additional $100 for having the project that best demonstrated an aspect of environmental science.
The Science of Sustainability
This is the second consecutive year Maturi has qualified for the Intel international fair. Last year, he explored the protective effects of Chlorella, a green algae, on zebrafish embryos exposed to a toxic form of mercury.
This year, Maturi focused his research on biofuel production. Making a biofuel requires cellulose, or plant matter, to be broken down into glucose. Enzymes make that process happen. Then, the glucose molecules are converted into ethanol.
“In the entire production, the most expensive part is the enzyme that breaks down cellulose to make glucose,” said Maturi. “So if you can find natural ways to get those enzymes versus growing them, and if you can actually make those enzymes more efficient, then you can make biofuels a more realistic option as a fuel source in the future.”
Maturi took one of those enzymes – cellobiase – and added co-enzymes like Vitamins B1, B3, and B6 to it. He wanted to see if the co-enzymes would improve the efficiency of the cellobiase, making it break down cellulose into glucose even faster.
While the project did not ultimately identify any statistical differences between the two groups, Maturi still sees this as a process worthy of additional research.
“It still presents a promising alternative for the future in that we could do more research on this or examine different sources for those enzymes,” he said.
About Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
Maturi’s project will compete with more than 1,700 high school students from more than 75 countries in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair next month. Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition.
Intel ISEF unites these top young scientific minds, showcasing their talents on an international stage, where doctoral level scientists review and judge their work.