When Sarah started high school, she knew little about geology and wasn't especially keen to learn more. "Geology isn't a subject that you typically read about as a headliner," she admits. Then, on a field trip to University of Florida, she met marine geologist Michael R. Perfit, who opened her eyes. She plunged zestfully into seafloor geology, spent the summer of 2003 in Perfit's lab, and used what she learned there to win a Grand Prize $50,000 scholarship and $10,000 in other prizes at the 2004 Intel Science & Engineering Fair, an international competition also sponsored by Intel Corp.

harrison project
Sarah Langberg with her science fair display.
Sarah is helping to show that geology's current theory about undersea volcanism is, if not all wet, at least in need of revision. Current models confine seafloor volcanic activity just to the narrow strips where the Earth's crust is slowly splitting apart, allowing lava to flow up and form fresh seabed. The Juan de Fuca Ridge, off the coast of Oregon, is one such spreading center.

However, Sarah's research suggests a different scenario. She analyzed samples of volcanic rock picked up by remotely operated undersea robots at the Juan de Fuca Ridge and at various distances from it. If lava emerges only at the ridge, the more distant rocks should be chemically similar, just older, having been shoved sideways by newer lava. But many of the outlying lava samples were too different, chemically, to have welled up at the same spot. That points to the existence of separate "off-axis" volcanic vents on the sides of this ridge and maybe others.

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COMMENTS On The Issues

Where would the extra R&D funds come from? I would hope that a portion could come from taxpayers on the higher end of the scale. Those that can afford to pay more should, in the name of research, development, and the advancement of our nation. More importantly, if we can afford the cost of war in Iraq, which is nearing $157 billion, I think some of this money could definitely be reappropriated towards research when the war ends.


Sarah R. Langberg

Canterbury School
Fort Myers, Fla.

Hobbies: Jewish youth group (, sailing, running

Ambition: Public policy, government, or research professor