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Cloquet student wins prestigious state science award

Cloquet High School Senior Adrianna Pollak won the Donaldson Award Feb. 15at the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Native American Science Fusion Series event.  

This award is given to one Minnesota American Indian 7- to 12th-grade student who has shown exceptional achievement and or passion for a STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) related field of study, in or outside of the classroom. Students are nominated by their teachers or mentors; Pollak was nominated by her research teacher/mentor Dr. Cynthia Welsh, and Holly Pellerin, Manoomin Project. Pollak was the only student to win the Donaldson award this year.

The purpose of the Science Fusion series is to stimulate youth interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and  Mathematics (STEM) careers. The Science Fusion events expose youth to real professionals with whom they can identify. Up to three students from across Minnesota with exceptional achievement in or passion for a STEM discipline will be honored at each event: African Americans in Science, American Indians in Science, Asian American, and Amantes de la Ciencia. For more information, visit

Working under the guidance of Welsh, Pollak has participated in science research activities since she was in seventh grade, receiving many awards for their research, including the publication of her work in the December 2012 issue of Zebrafish Journal. Pollak’s current research project is titled “The Use of Quantitative PCR to Determine the Impact of Zygosity (hemizygotes vs. homozygotes) on the Fitness and Impact in the Wild of Transgenic Fluorescent Zebrafish.” Pollak receives professional assistance and guidance from Dr. Jennifer Liang, biology professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD). Pollak will present her research at the Minnesota Academy of Science State Science Fair, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in March, along with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, Calif., in May.

Pollak presented her work at the Northeast Minnesota Regional Science Fair, held at UMD. The regional fair’s major sponsors are the Minnesota Power Foundation, UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering, Donneray Consulting, Rotary Club of Duluth No. 25, Carlson Orthodontics, and the American Chemical Association-Lake Superior Chapter.

These students had financial support for their projects from Cloquet Public Schools, the Cloquet Educational Foundation, and were funded in part by the Minnesota Power Foundation, with special assistance from Holly Pellerin, director of the Manoomin Project funded through the National Science Foundation and the University of Minnesota’s Geoscience Alliance’s Diversity Director Diana Dalbotten and Emi Ito.