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The Siemens Foundation announced live via webcast on Dec. 5 that Evanston Township High School seniors Julia Crowley-Farenga and Patrick Loftus won third place in the team portion of the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. The two share a $40,000 scholarship that was presented at the 13th annual awards hosted by The George Washington University.

Finalists spent the weekend of Dec. 3-4 in Washington, D.C., as they presented their posters, gave their presentations and had private question-and-answer sessions with judges for the Siemens Competition, the nation’s premier science research competition for high school students. An all-time record of 2,436 students registered to enter the Siemens Competition this year for an unprecedented 1,541 projects submitted.

Julia and Patrick entered the team competition and worked together during the past few months with astrophysics postdoctoral fellow Dr. Laura Trouille at Northwestern University. Their research focused on a new morphological classification scheme for post-starburst galaxies – rather rare galaxies in an interesting phase of galactic evolution. In the past, the sample size of these galaxies that had been studied was on order of a few dozen.  But Julia and Patrick went through a new database of 2,800 of these galaxies, bringing in new research possibilities for astronomers. Their work immediately led to new findings that are helping astronomers figure out which of several theoretical models of galactic evolution are valid. The data came from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey experimental collaboration.

About the Winners

 From a young age, Julia Crowley-Farenga would search for shooting stars and dreamed of becoming an astronaut traveling across the universe.  “I had never taken a class in astronomy and I wanted to learn more about the subject that has fascinated me since childhood,” she stated.

Julia plans to major in engineering, materials science or nanotechnology and she hopes to be an astronaut or work for NASA. Julia is president of the ETHS Community Service Club and a member of the varsity track and field team. 

Patrick Loftus is a member of the ETHS gymnastics team and he is also a member of the Midwest Young Artists Symphony Orchestra and percussion ensemble.  Patrick plans to major in computer science, mathematics or physics and hopes to become a professor “with room to travel and research often.” Patrick
commented, “My interest in this matter was a combination of love of the mystery and beauty in space, and the exciting drive to contribute something to this field.”