Spring Valley senior receives $2,000 award for plant research

Kristina Trifonova
Kristina Trifonova

A Spring Valley High School senior has received a $2,000 award for her research into plant growth.

Kristina Trifonova, 17, is one of 300 high school seniors from throughout the country to receive the award, a part of The Society for Science and the Public’s 78th Regeneron Science Talent Search.

In a nutshell, Trifonova’s experiment, titled “The Effect of Hyperaccumulator Biochar Application on Soil Properties and Plant Growth of Vigna radiata,” shows that applying “biochar” — charcoal made from charred vegetation — to soil can hurt plant growth under certain circumstances.

“I actually did not find it was beneficial to plant growth, which is what previous studies have shown,” Trifonova said.

Trifonova conducted the experiment using store-bought potting soil and mung beans and compared the results to a control group. The reason her study results differed from previous studies may be because of the nutrient-rich soil she used, she said.

“More research needs to be done on its effects in soil,” Trifonova said.

Only two south Carolininans won the award, which gives an additional $2,000 to the student’s school, said Allie Stifel, the director of the Regeneron Science Talent Search. The other winner was Dreher High School senior Anthony Androulakis, who won for his research on stroke patients.

“The top 300 is an incredible honor,” Stifel said, noting that several scientists who received this award in the past have gone on to win Nobel Prizes. “It’s a great group to be a part of and we’re certainly happy to have them.”

Trifinova isn’t sure where she is going to attend college, but once she is accepted she said she is hoping to major in biochemistry.

“I was really surprised to get the money,” Trifinova said. “I’m probably going to put it towards college.”

Lucas Daprile has been covering the University of South Carolina and higher education since March 2018. Before working for The State, he graduated from Ohio University and worked as an investigative reporter at TCPalm in Stuart, FL. There, where he won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his political and environmental coverage.