Salem teen competes in the largest pre-college science competition in the world

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Photo provided by Roanoke City Public Schools
Logan at the 2018 International Science and International Fair.

Not many people know that the Epstein-Barr virus is an oncogenic herpesvirus that causes over 150,000 fatalities annually and has no FDA-approved treatment.

Logan Dunkenberger does. The 17-year-old Glenvar High upperclassmen participated in the largest pre-college competition in the world, the 2018 International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), from May 13-19 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Cindy Bohland has known Logan for years and has always believed that she should one day pursue a career in the science field.

“Aside from the fact that understanding the world around us is inherently interesting, science makes people’s lives better,” said Bohland who teaches biology at the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School (RVGS). “Logan hopes to eventually pursue an MD/ Ph.D. to both work with people directing in improving their health and to research new treatments and cures for diseases.”

In February, Logan was named one of two winners at the Western Virginia Regional Science and Engineering Fair. That accomplishment qualified her to attend the international fair. Carly Smith, another RVGS student, was the other winner.

To make sure she was prepared, Logan spent most of her fall and winter working on her science fair project under the supervision of Kristin Knight at the Carilion Basic Research Lab.

“Working at that lab gave her the ability to use human cells in tissue culture and to work with the virus,” Bohland said. “When an experiment failed, she repeated it. When she got unexpected results, she revised her hypothesis and set up new experiments. When an experiment worked, she repeated it to validate her results.”

Over the seven-day period in Pittsburgh, students from all over the world were judged on their mastery of science, problem-solving skills and communication. The purpose of Logan’s project was to “evaluate the efficacy of resveratrol and corilagin regarding their ability to inhibit latent and lytic EBV infections.”

“Because resveratrol and corilagin do not prevent primary EBV infection, the hypotheses for Phase I was not supported,” Logan said. “In Phase II, the hypotheses were partially supported.”

Without Kristin Knight opening up her lab and allowing her to pursue her ideas, the belief is that Logan would not have been able to do her project.

“Before she printed her board up, she met with James Smyth at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute to make sure she was interpreting all of her results correctly. He was the first trained virologist actually to look at her research,” Bohland said. “Many students at RVGS listened to her practice presentations and gave her feedback including Abbey Ingram, Christine Flora, Richard Qiu and Matthew Svec. Carly Smith was her constant companion and moral support throughout the fair.”

Logan says her experience in Pittsburgh gave her a lot of confidence that she plans on carrying over to her senior year of high school.