A North Hollywood High School senior joined an elite group of 300 this week when he was named a semifinalist in the 55th annual Westinghouse Science Talent Search.
Kevin Shapiro was recognized for his study of the little-explored role of a parasitic bacterium in the ecosystem.
In an international science exchange program, he conducted his research last summer at the Russian Academy of Science at the Moscow State University Institute at Pushchino.
Selected from an applicant pool of 1,869 entries nationwide, Kevin is the only Los Angeles Unified School District student to be named a semifinalist, one of 20 in California.
But the 16-year-old who has studied Russian at UCLA and who undertook the writing of an ethics code for the school's highly gifted magnet took the accolade calmly, calling the recognition "very, very nice."
Clearly more comfortable discussing his research than himself, Kevin said he is a willing listener to friends and a "very modest person."
College counselor Susan Bonoff said Kevin's intelligence is complemented by a laid-back manner and a mature sense of humor.
"He's not your run-of-the-mill kid," Bonoff said.
As a semifinalist, Kevin is eligible to compete for 40 scholarship awards worth a total of $205,000 in the nation's oldest science competition. The 40 finalists, who will be announced Jan. 23, will attend a six-day Science Talent Institute in March in Washington, D.C., where they will compete for 10 scholarship awards ranging from $10,000 to $40,000. Each of the remaining 30 finalists will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Already accepted to Harvard, where he is considering studying linguistics, neuroscience or neuropsychology, Kevin conceded the competition's scholarship money couldn't hurt.
But mainly, he said, "It's a very nice feeling to know you've accomplished something substantial."