Originally created 10/10/00

Georgia teen competes for science award



WAYCROSS - Family insight and a love of science have helped a Waycross teen-ager focus on a possible early method of detection for an incurable eye disease.

Victoria Clark, a Ware County High School freshman, is among 40 students nationwide to become finalists in the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge, a national science competition later this month in Washington.

The 14-year-old qualified for the competition by receiving a first-place award in the statewide Georgia Science and Engineering Fair held in April for a project about early detection of macular degeneration in the eye.

She was an eighth-grader at Waycross Middle School when she researched and developed her project, which explored the potential of using a color hue test to detect the hereditary eye disease.

"When I entered my project, I hoped that I would do well, but I never thought that I would win," Victoria said.

The other Georgia finalists in the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge are Laura Despres, 13, of Sacred Heart School in Warner Robins; and Vincent Ling, also 13, of Taylor Middle School in Alpharetta.

The three youths were selected from about 1,600 middle school pupils in 23 states who entered the competition.

They were awarded a trip to Washington, where they will compete Oct. 21-26 in science challenges involving biology, paleontology, geology and an undisclosed subject, at the Smithsonian Institution.

The teen-agers will be judged on their individual communication skills, leadership and problem-solving ability. Each youngster will give oral presentations about the projects that earned a chance to compete for the grand prize - a $10,000 scholarship, organizers said.

Victoria's science project focused on a way to detect early signs of age-related macular degeneration, which is irreversible, before severe damage or vision loss occurs.

"Macular degeneration is hereditary and is a leading cause of blindness. My uncle has it," Victoria said. "I chose this project because I wanted to find out all I could about it and what might detect it as early as possible, since it could affect me or someone else in my family."

Victoria is the oldest daughter of ophthalmologist Dr. S. William Clark III and Jill Clark of Waycross. She has two sisters, Evelyn, 12, and Alora, 7.