OAKLAND — Two years ago, scientist Vasanthy Narayanaswami — known to her colleagues as "Vas" — was faced with a challenge.

Vikram Jairam, a 17-year-old student from the Head-Royce School in Oakland, had come to work in her laboratory at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute. Narayanaswami knew she needed to think of a project that would interest a teenager.

The experiment they designed around a chemical in second-hand smoke — and its potential to predispose children to heart disease — resonated with more than just the young researcher.

The paper was published this month in "Biochemistry," the official journal of the American Chemical Society. It has been listed as a "Hot Article," one with particular scientific relevance.

Jairam, a sophomore at Yale University whose family lives in Fremont, said he was thrilled by the news.

"That was phenomenal," he said.

Jairam and Narayanaswami were two of eight co-authors listed on the paper. It is titled, "Modification by Acrolein, aComponent of Tobacco Smoke and Age-related Oxidative Stress, Mediates Functional Impairment of Human Apolipoprotein E."

Narayanaswami said Jairam earned his co-authorship. After the 2005 summer program ended, he returned throughout the school year and into the following summer before leaving for college.

"I have a policy in my lab that you have to contribute significantly to get your name on the paper," she said.


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Not only did Jairam contribute scientifically, she said, but he sparked the idea for the project, which is ongoing.

"The whole thing started because I had this eager kid showing up at my doorstep who wanted to do something," she said.

E-mail Katy Murphy at kmurphy@oaklandtribune.com. Read her Oakland schools blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/education.