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Local science champion spices up her prize project

May 17, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - When Caitlyn Hill needed supplies for her science fair project, she and her father turned to the World Wide Web.

It was on eBay where they found a key component called capsaicin.

The chemical compound is what makes chili peppers hot, Caitlyn explained.

Capsaicin apparently also made the 14-year-old's project hot, earning her the title of "champion" at the Franklin Science and Technology Fair last month.

Caitlyn, a freshman at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, had a feeling she would win something, but wasn't anticipating the title just one step away from her ultimate goal of grand champion. The enthusiasm for science, which has yielded fair projects for three years, also serves as the foundation of her desired career.

"This is the kind of stuff I want to do," Caitlyn said. "I want to be a research physician and find medicines."

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Her project, "Too Hot for Germs," explored the effects of capsaicin on bacteria known as bacillus subtilis; Caitlyn learned that capsaicin stunted its growth.

"I heard that countries without refrigeration use hot foods so their food doesn't get infected," said Caitlyn, daughter of Carl and Noreen Hill.

Caitlyn was one of a handful of Waynesboro participants, but she would encourage others to enter science fairs.

"I would tell them to do something they're interested in and do something creative," Caitlyn said.

Her research started in February, and the experiment spanned three days in the family kitchen.

The kitchen has often been a lab for Caitlyn, who chuckles when mentioning one childhood experiment that accidentally burned her brother.

"But that's another story," she said.

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