Arjun Gaurang Yodh, 17, a senior at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, was one of 40 promising young scientists selected as finalists in the nationwide 36th annual science talent search conducted by the Science Service.

Chosen from a field of 300 high school seniors honored in the search, Yodha was invited to the Science Service Institute program held in the Mayflower Hotel this week to compete for $67,500 in scholarships and awards.

Yodh, who said he had originally participated in the program for fun, spent the summer in a lab at the University of Maryland working on his project, an inquiry into the possibility of life on the planet Jupiter.

Yodh created a model of Jupiter's atmosphere based on the properties of certain chemical compounds known to exist there. Drawing on the results of the Pioneer space probes for information on Jupiter's turbulent weather, he said, he then varied the presence of such substances as hydrogen and water in his model of the atmosphere to see which combinations would favor the development of the chemical components of living creatures.

There was never any question of his becoming a scientist, Yodh said. "I grew up with science as an influence, particularly since both of my parents are scientists. My father is a physicist and my mother a biologist," he said.

At school, Yodh participates in many extracurricular activities. He is a representative on the Student Government Association, a co-editor of the school newspaper and a member of the varsity swim team.

He characterizes himself as a student activist, advocating more student input in the curriculum structure, and a change in conservative social attitudes. In spite of the many demands on his time, he is first in his graduating class.

Yodh plans to attend Cornell University, and says he is fairly certain he will prepare for a career in nuclear engineering.

During the five-day program at the Mayflower Hotel, Yodh met the local finalists from Virginia, Lawrence Robert Weatherford and Nancy Ellen Zeleniak, both students at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Va., and Glenn Curtis Poole, a student at Annandale High School in Annandale, Va.