US & Canada

The Bronx school that produces Nobel winners

Image caption With such an illustrious alumni, the Bronx High School of Science is tough to get into

With its green doors and brown hallways, the Bronx High School of Science looks like many others in New York. But appearances can be deceptive.

This high school is a veritable factory of Nobel prize winners in science - no other school in the United States has produced more.

Eight alumni of the school have received a Nobel Prize in Physics or Chemistry since 1972.

At the main entrance, next to the display case of trophies, there is a poster with photographs of the winners. The only person missing is the latest recipient, Robert F Lefkowitz, who has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and studied here in the 1950s.

Hopeful future Nobel prize winners studying here are, like many students in New York's public schools, the children of immigrants - the first generation born in the United States.

Elyssa Amanda Ruiz, 17, is conducting research on immunology.

"In my experiments I am simulating the effect of a protein on acute leukaemia in the immune system," she told the BBC, without hesitation, while explaining the complex scientific concepts.

The Bronx High School of Science receives the same public support as other schools in the city of New York, but does have a special programme for science.

The scheme helps students to find a mentor and a professional laboratory for research projects in the fields of biology, engineering, computer science and social sciences.

Dr Jean Donahue, management assistant for science, told the BBC that the projects the students undertake "are just like in real life".

"They do investigate for real, discover new things and in many cases they publish their findings in scientific journals," she said.

Wise words

The winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, David Politzer, while visiting his old school, told 17-year-old student Ian Kaplan: "Find something you are good at and others see as difficult."

The student is investigating computer models that can predict the winner of the presidential and vice-presidential debates in the United States.

Another student, Valerio Zhang, is investigating the effect of a protein on cell growth in prostate cancer.

He is not surprised that his school has produced so many Nobel laureates and believes this latest award is particularly important as it is the first the school has received for chemistry.

Being a student at the most decorated US public high school requires a lot of talent.

Each year, many aspiring young scientists apply to study here but the application process is rigorous. Last year, only 5% of students that sat the entrance exam gained a place at the school.

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