The Next Generation of Solvers?

Posted by Connie French on Mar 19, 2009 9:08:05 AM

Intel recently announced the winners of its Science Talent Search - a science competition for pre-college students who compete for $1.25 Million in awards and scholarships.  The competition has been in existence for 66 years, with Intel assuming sponsorship in 1998 to shine a spotlight on the need to improve math and science education in the United States. 1600 students compete in the competition, with the field narrowing to 300 semi-finalists, then 40 finalists.  The winner, second and third place students receive scholarships of $100,000, $75,000 and $50,000 respectively.  Past winners have gone on to win some of the world's most prestigious academic honors. Six former finalists have gone on to win the Nobel Prize; others have been awarded the Fields Medal, the National Medal of Science and MacArthur Foundation Fellowships.

Congratulations to this year's winners - we hope to see you as registered Solvers in the near future!

Eric Larson, First Place, $100,000

Eric Larson enjoys tackling the tough questions, the kind that nobody else can answer. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that Eric's mathematical investigations led him to develop a complete description of fusion categories never before described. These fusion categories exhibit new types of behaviors and could have applications in theoretical physics and computer science.

Eric, a senior at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon, is the recipient of several mathematics awards, including the silver medal at the 2007 International Math Olympiad in Hanoi, Vietnam. Additionally, the seventeen-year-old is an accomplished classical pianist and a four-time gold medalist at the Oregon Junior Bach Festival. Eric hopes to attend Harvard or MIT and pursue a career as a mathematical researcher or professor.

William Sun, Second Place, $75,000

In his biochemistry project, William Sun, 17, examined a recently discovered molecule, Golgicide A (GCA), as a potential drug to inhibit intracellular transport of disease. Specifically, William's research demonstrates that, although GCA affects a specific gene which regulates intracellular transport, it has no effect on canine cells. Through cloning and genetic sequencing, William was able to identify a single amino acid difference in the canine gene versus other mammalian genes. When this canine gene was substituted for the corresponding human gene, intracellular pathways were interrupted. This discovery could lead to new approaches for preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

First in his class at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Missouri, William enjoys debate and piano, and is the general assembly president of the St. Louis area Model UN. He hopes to further his studies at Harvard or Yale.

Philip Streich, Third Place $50,000

Though nanotubes are known to be extremely strong and conductive, scientists have generally believed them to be insoluble and therefore impractical for real-world applications. Until, that is, Philip Streich, an 18-year-old from Platteville, Wisconsin, used light scattering theory and chemical solvents to prove otherwise. Philip's research provides the first quantifiable evidence that nanotubes are thermodynamically soluble. Additionally, Philip was able to improve not only the thermodynamic solubility of carbon nanotubes, but also of graphene and cellulose nanocrystals. This work may lead to the development of revolutionary, ultra-strong materials and ultra-fast nanoelectronics.

Philip, who is home-schooled, was a member of the 2007 U.S. Physics Olympiad team and has won the National Physics Bowl twice. He is active in politics and has served as the elected Treasurer of the Grant County Democratic Party for the past two years. Philip plans to attend Harvard and pursue a career in research.

Topics: Innovation Insights, Solvers

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