September 12, 1977 12:00 PM

Sarah Smith was working as a summer intern sponsored by the American Chemical Society at the Indiana University School of Dentistry’s Oral Health Research Institute when she found a protein substance within a plant extract that could inhibit the buildup of plaque on teeth. (Plaque is the bacterial deposit that forms on the surface of teeth and helps cause decay.) “Sarah’s discovery might seem singularly modest,” comments Dr. Simon Katz of the institute, “but it is a precise observation, and a chain of them often links up to Nobel Prize awards. Her work has opened a new vista of research to us.” Sarah’s discovery came from examining sycamore leaves she had gathered in her parents’ yard in Danville, Ind. Her experiment included drying the leaves in an oven, adding a hot liquid solution of sodium hydroxide and incubating the substance in an oven set at mouth temperature. “It was really neat to see the sycamore extract work,” she says. Sarah’s parents are teachers, and she is the youngest of eight. “My domain is emptying the garbage,” she says of her chores. Now 18, Sarah has just entered Purdue University and plans to major in engineering. “Engineering is a good base for any research field,” she says. “I’d like to be an archeologist and dig up old things, and engineering can lead to archeology.”

Ken Noda, now 14, is already working on his fourth opera, based on Alfred Noyes’s poem The Highwayman. His first, The Canary, was written in 1973 when he was 10 and has been performed by the New York City Opera in schools as part of its education program. In 1976 Ken received a $1,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to work on his third opera, The Rivalry, based on the life of President Andrew Jackson. A voracious reader, Ken got the idea for the opera from a history book. The Scarborough, N.Y. youngster is also a pianist and made his New York debut with the Philharmonic last June. Ken began playing his mother’s spinet at the age of 3. By the time he was 5, he was taking lessons at Juilliard. Though he has played with the St. Louis Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, he has never given a public recital. “Recitals are very demanding and quite different from performing with an orchestra,” he says. He has been reengaged by the New York Philharmonic to perform during its upcoming winter season. “I love to be onstage,” says Ken, an only child. “It’s a lot different from practicing because then you’re by yourself and you can’t communicate with anyone. But when I see all those people I feel like giving them a lot. I get a little nervous, but once I start to play, it goes away.”

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