Local Teen Makes Giant Scientific Discovery
by Cynthia Robertson

What teenagers do in the privacy of their rooms can be a mystery. Undoubtedly, most plug into their I-PODS and tune into American Idol. But start and complete a scientific experiment? That is rare form.

Sixteen-year-old Samuel Spevack of El Cajon has done so. His unusual discovery ranks so high in importance that his findings were presented by Professor Morrow at the Lunar and Planetary Science conference in Houston. Spevack’s news-making discovery is a mysterious crater-type formation west of Stockton, California. The formation resembles an impact crater, formed by a space rock the size of three football fields.

The project has captured national interest, partly because this could be the first meteor crater in California.

It is a sophisticated discovery for anyone, much more for a teen-ager. Rather than getting teased for his studious endeavors, which have included more than 100 hours of work, Spevack enjoys hearing “Bravo!” at Grossmont Middle College High School which he attends.

“The school is one of the best things that’s happened to me. Friends are a lot closer and I get great support of my teachers,” said Spevack of the school, which requires a strict application process and meets on the campus of Grossmont Community College.

Spevack is competing at an international science fair held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His project, named Seismic Petro graphic Analyses of the Victoria Island Structure,” will be among those of three finalists from the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair.

“I’m not sure if I will win anything at this fair,” said Spevack, one week before he left.

Whether or not he wins, this young man is on his way to becoming an important scientist. His love of science started early, and he began competing in science fairs in the 7 th grade. “My first project was grafting oleander plants, and in the 8 th grade, I did an experiment on the effects of reverse magnetic field on radish plants,” he said, in his soft-spoken voice.

No fruit falls far from its tree, and in Spevack’s case, he has his father to thank for his scientific bent. Bennett Spevack, a geologist with ABA Energy Corporation in San Diego, had first spotted the crater while examining seismic survey data of the Central Valley region.

“It looked interesting because it was circular,” he said. “My son saw it and expressed interest in figuring out whether it might be an impact crater.”

He showed Sam how to use the software and helped him get familiar with the right terminology. The young scientist went on to create maps and profiles to determine if the formation was a crater.

The 100-plus hours he used with the computers and microscope will be counted as his 60-hour internship required by Grossmont Middle College High School.

Spevack began gathering information about the crater formation in 2004. Once he determined the dimensions of the crater— possible to do only through computer imaging, since it is buried 5,000 feet below sea level—he turned to SDSU Professor Jared Morrow for the project’s second stage.

“Professor Morrow helped me find physical information, mostly from the surrounding oil wells. He also showed me how to use the microscope and how to identify minerals,” explained Spevack.

Though Morrow officially presented the project at the Lunar and Planetary Science Fair in Houston, Spevack was the actual author of the abstract. In fact, his abstract was placed first in line to be heard.

Spevack and Morrow know that the crater formation is still one in speculation. They are searching for deformities in the rocks, such as shocked quartz, that need the high-shock pressure of impacts in order to form.

“We’ve found a few grains that exhibit some features of shock, but there still needs to be other searching and peer reviewing,” said Spevack.

After he returns from the International Science Fair, Spevack will continue to make discoveries in the science world, in some way or another.

“For college, I’m definitely going into the sciences, maybe a double major in physics and music composition,” said Spevack, who plays the bass clarinet for San Diego Youth Symphony’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble. “I guess I’ll keep music as my hobby.”

You just can’t keep a good teenager down.

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