Need idea for Westinghouse project

Roy Smith roy at alanine.phri.nyu.edu
Mon Oct 29 17:23:05 EST 1990


	A high school junior just introduced himself to me, looking for a
mentor for a Westinghouse project.  It sounds like what he wants to do is
something in computational biology.  He mentioned things like RNA folding
and molecular modelling.  He's just learning C and is taking a course which
I think he said is called Biological Research but sounds like it's really
"Let's Do a Westinghouse Project, 3 credits per semester, by permission of
the instructor"

	I'm not sure how to approach this.  From the 3 minutes I got to
talk to him, he seems pretty bright, but I'm not sure how serious a project
even a really smart high school junior can be expected to tackle in a
year's worth of effort.  When I was a junior or senior in high school, a
really cool computer project was writing Hunt The Wumpus in BASIC; clearly
that's not going to win any Westinghouse awards.  Didn't I hear somewhere
that Ray Lau wrote StuffIt for the Mac while he was in high school?  Have
things changed that much in 15 years, or is Ray just a lot smarter than me?

	I certainly don't want to just think up a year's worth of busywork
for him to do, but I also don't want to end up with a project that's too
big or too hard to get a handle on.  I'm not even sure how much of the
planning I'm supposed to be doing anyway; I always look at the projects
Westinghouse winners do and think, "no way did a high school kid conceive,
plan and excecute that on his own" and don't want that to happen here.  Any
ideas on how I should deal with this?

	I guess the big question is, it is reasonable to expect that a kid
just learning C now could possibly, in a year from now, produce some
useful, impressive, or just plain interesting body of work in computational
biology?
--
Roy Smith, Public Health Research Institute
455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016
roy at alanine.phri.nyu.edu -OR- {att,cmcl2,rutgers,hombre}!phri!roy
"Arcane?  Did you say arcane?  It wouldn't be Unix if it wasn't arcane!"



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