Belgrade High School sophomore Kyra Giese has participated in the Montana Science Olympiad every year since the seventh grade. This year she took top honors in the Protein Modeling competition, which required entrants to construct a physical model of a protein.
BHS science teacher Rachel White said that in her opinion, the event is among the Olympiad’s toughest because it requires students to be so “scientifically accurate.” If Giese had any doubt that her model fell short of that requirement, it evaporated after she attempted to find her winning entry after the judging was over.
“They’d thrown them all in the garbage, but mine wasn’t in there, so we called the judge,” Giese recalled. “She had taken it to her office in the Biology building (at Montana State University) because she thought it was so cool she wanted to keep it.”
“The judges stole her model,” confirmed White. “That’s sort of a compliment.”
After that close call, Giese went home with both a gold medal and her protein model, which judges had graded on a number of criteria, including accuracy of the carbon backbone and inclusion of functionally relevant features. Giese incorporated protein side chains, represented by colored beads, and a single-stranded DNA sequence into her project.
White, who coaches the BHS cross-country team of which Giese is a member, said “Belgrade always has some of those top performers” at the Olympiad. She credited Giese’s “intrinsic motivation” with her success at the competition.
“She also placed last year - this is not her first time,” White said.
This was the 35th year of the Montana Science Olympiad, which was held on Nov. 26 and sponsored by MSU’s Science Math Resource Center. Around 1,400 Montana students.