Back in the late 1990s, the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation gave an annual award of $100,000 to a Discover Magazine Award winner. To their surprise, one of the winners was a high school student named Natalie Hershlag.
Of course, as the title suggests, the student was no other than the Oscar winner actress, Natalie Portman.
Coauthored by Dr. Jonathan Woodward and Natalie Portman the article was titled: “A Simple Method To Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar”. It was published in the Intel Science Talent Search magazine and as reported in Chemical & Engineering News: (the article continues after the ad)
The article, “A Simple Method To Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar,” was the result of an independent-study project carried out by Portman during her sophomore year at Syosset High. Intended to illustrate “environmentally friendly biotechnology for the utilization of renewable energy sources,” the work earned Portman a semifinalist position that year in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search, an annual competition organized by the Society for Science & the Public.
The laboratory instructions Portman helped develop aim to teach high schoolers and undergraduates the principles of enzyme-catalyzed reactions by instructing them how to break down cellulose with a combination of cellulase, glucose dehydrogenase, and hydrogenase. The amount of hydrogen evolved in the process is indicated by a simple redox dye, benzyl viologen.
You can actually read the whole article here: Link
For those of you who don’t know, Natalie Portman went on to enrol to Harvard University from which she earned a Psychology degree. In 2001, she coauthored another scientific paper titled “Frontal Lobe Activation during Object Permanence: Data from Near-Infrared Spectroscopy.” It’s abstract says:
The ability to create and hold a mental schema of an object is one of the milestones in cognitive development. Developmental scientists have named the behavioral manifestation of this competence object permanence. Convergent evidence indicates that front lobe maturation plays a critical role in the display of object permanence, but methodological and ethical constrains have made it difficult to collect neurophysiological evidence from awake, behaving infants. Near-infrared spectroscopy provides a noninvasive assessment of changes in oxy and deoxyhemoglobin and total hemoglobin concentration within a prescribed region. The evidence described in this report reveals that the emergence of object permanence is related to an increase in hemoglobin concentration in frontal cortex.
This one is also available for free on Harvard’s website: Link
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that in 2008 she reported to Fox News that “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.”
Well, thankfully, she can be both.