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Tom Churchill, 14, has been a weather buff since third grade. He has even constructed his own barometer as well as a hygrometer (for measuring humidity) using a strand of human hair, a needle, a straw and a penny. Don’t laugh. “The son-of-a-gun is accurate 90 percent of the time!” crows the program director on the local Dubuque, Iowa radio station for whom Tom does regular spot forecasts. Last August, with the National Weather Service predicting clear skies over the cornfields, Tom correctly warned farmers to batten down for severe winds, hail and thunderstorms 72 hours ahead. Recently featured on Tom Snyder’s nationally syndicated Tomorrow show and then invited to do a week-long stint as guest of San Francisco’s KRON-TV news, young Churchill is more interested in meteorology than in media after he finishes high school.

Sherri Koning can’t spell and had a B-minus average as she graduated from high school in June. That didn’t stop the American Medical Association from whisking her from her home in Battle Creek, Mich. to address the annual AMA convention in Atlantic City two weeks later. Sherri’s senior biology project had resulted in a significant medical advance: a way to detect cancer in plants through the use of Kirlian photography. It captures on film the auras, thought to be electromagnetic, that surround living matter and was developed by a Soviet couple (named Kirlian) in the ’30s. But Sherri was one of the first to demonstrate how Kirlian images can differentiate cancerous cells from healthy ones. Though the AMA conventioneers were fascinated by the possibility that the diagnostic technique could be refined for use on human tissue, homespun Sherri staunchly resisted frequent suggestions that she make a career in medical research. The daughter of a grocer, Sherri, 18, is happy waitressing in a pizza shack until she begins courses in occupational therapy at a local community college this fall.