LLE High School Program Participants Honored

April 2007

Rui Wang with her advisor, Ken Marshall, at the 2007 Intel Science Talent Search Competition in Washington, D.C.

Three participants in LLE's 2006 Summer Research Program, Rui Wang from Fairport High School, Alexandra Cok from Allendale Columbia School, and Zuzana Culakova from Brighton High School, were honored in 2007 by the Intel Science Talent Search. First created in 1942 by the Westinghouse Corporation and assumed by the Intel Corporation in 1998, the Science Talent Search is often referred to as the "Junior Nobel Prize" and is the country's most prestigious science scholarship competition. Alumni of the competition include National Medal of Science winners, MacArthur Foundation fellows, Field medalists and Nobel Laureates.

Wang was named one of 40 finalists in the competition, and Cok and Culakova were two of the 300 semi-finalists. About 1,700 students from across the country participated in the 2007 competition. Each competitor completed an original research project that was reviewed by a national jury of highly regarded scientists.

Wang's project used a new computational approach for establishing the absorption wavelengths of nickel dithiolene dyes. These dyes are noted for their intense absorption over a broad range of near-infrared wavelengths and have applications in optics, liquid crystal technologies, and lasers (applications in night vision avionics and sensor protection for military applications are the greatest areas of interest right now). A novel aspect of Wang's study was her use of time-dependent density functional theory, a relatively new methodology, allowing her to predict accurately the maximum absorption wavelengths of various known nickel dithiolene dyes. With her methodology validated, Wang designed and modeled four nickel dithiolene molecules that could extend the maximum absorption wavelengths further into the infrared without costly and time-consuming synthesis.

Cok reported on work dealing with the optimization of Polar Direct Drive beam profiles for initial NIF experiments, while Culakova presented her studies of the use of organic coatings for the hardening of laser optics.

The 40 finalists competed for $530,000 in scholarships. Finalists received an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to the Intel Science Talent Institute from March 8–13 2007. Each finalist received at least a $5,000 scholarship and an Intel laptop computer. Each semifinalist received $1,000 and $1,000 for their school. The top prize winner received a $100,000 four-year scholarship. While many of the finalists spent months or even years working on their projects, Wang's project was based on the work she completed during her eight weeks in the LLE summer program.

LLE Summer High School Program is Committed to Developing Young Talent

Zuzana Culakova working on her project for the 2006 High School Program

Every summer, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics conducts a research program for students who have just completed their junior year of high school. The eight-week program is an excellent opportunity for motivated young people to participate in real scientific research in a world-class laboratory.

The LLE Summer Research Program also prepares and motivates students to participate in national scientific competitions. Over the history of the program there have been 23 Intel semifinalists with Wang being the fourth finalist from LLE.

The LLE Summer Research Program began in 1989 and is the only university-sponsored laser laboratory research program for high school students in the country. Students accepted into the program are assigned individual research projects which are supervised by laboratory scientists. The students work on projects that are part of the research done at the laboratory. Many of the projects involve the laboratory's 60-beam OMEGA laser, the world's most powerful fusion laser, and the OMEGA EP laser currently under construction. The students are paid to work 40 hours each week.

At the end of the program, the students produce written project reports and present the results of their projects at a symposium in the laboratory.

Many program participants go on to study science, engineering or mathematics in college and become research scientists and engineers.

The 2006 LLE High School Program consisted of thirteen juniors chosen from a pool of sixty applicants.

Student Applications

Ryan Burakowski working on his project for the 2006 High School Program

The 2007 Summer Research Program is already underway with students beginning their research in early July and continuing through the end of August. Application forms for the 2008 program will be available in early February 2008. Only students currently in their junior year of high school who are United States citizens are eligible to apply to the program.

Students are required to submit an application form, a letter indicating their desire to take part in the program, a short essay describing their interest in science and technology and their future goals, school transcripts, and a letter of recommendation from a science or math teacher.

Questions regarding the program may be addressed to Ms. Jean Steve, Program Coordinator, at (585) 275-5286 or to Dr. R. Stephen Craxton, Program Director, at (585) 275-5467.

Student reports from the program