Senior wins Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar Award
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4 months of research.
6 months of experimentation.
3 months of anticipation.
For Jerry Zhang, senior, all of this work paid off when he heard he received the 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar Award, the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competition given to 3,000 students who conduct scientific research. Zhang received a $2,000 award, with an additional $2,000 given to MHS.
Zhang’s research consisted of the creation of a computer simulation of a particular physics experiment dealing with quantum physics allowing him to remove errors that were present within the physical experiment.
“The applications of this particular research could be used in medical imaging such as PET scanners and nuclear medicine because it’s able to make the data collected during those scans more accurate,” Zhang said.
He began his initial experiments in Washington University in St. Louis through an internship program over last summer. At the end of the internship, Dr. Demetrios Sarantites, radiochemistry professor, suggested he could create a computer simulation of the experiment.
“The project I submitted was my independent work,” Zhang said. “I did reference some of the data I’d collected over the internship, but it is essentially a separate project from what I did over the summer.”
Zhang said he was extremely happy when he received the news he received the award because he hadn’t been expecting to be named a scholar.
“I’m not the most emotional person, but I was definitely excited to hear that I received the award,” Zhang said.
Although Zhang does not plan on going into the field of his research topic, quantum physics, he said the skills he gained while conducting research will help in his pursuit of computer science.
Zhang plans on attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall. He was accepted through early decision.
“My experience of conducting this research and knowing that what I’m working on is helping someone out there in a frontier of science really motivates me to continue on in that aspect, whether it’s still in physics or any other field of research and studies,” Zhang said.
Zhang said research is important because not only does it bring greater understanding for the world, but also how to improve the world.
“Particularly in high school, research is a great way for students to dive into something they may want to major in,” Zhang said. “Research is a good way to get a dose of working on one particular thing for an extended period of time, which doesn’t really exist in your high school courses.”
Phillip Schmidt, physics teacher, said Zhang has a focus for learning, especially with topics in chemistry and physics.
“His desire to learn is what motivated him to participate in the competition,” Schmidt said. “His personality really fits with this competition because it rewards people who are self-motivated and who can get out there and come up with ideas on their own without being told what to do.”
Schmidt said he hopes this award gives Zhang the confidence of the high quality of his work in that people notice it as well as provide motivation for Zhang to continue to pursue his interest in science.
In the future, Schmidt said he hopes Zhang finds happiness in what he decides on doing and to keep following his passion.
“My biggest wish for him is to be happy and to continue to enjoy what he does throughout his life,” Schmidt said.
Principal Dr. Greg Mathison said Zhang is extremely hardworking, persistent and driven, which helped him when working towards receiving the award.
Dr. Mathison said the community in the school helps to foster an environment for students like Zhang to thrive. He said the staff does a great job of helping students to try and find their own interests and cultivate those passions.
“Jerry came in as a wide-eyed freshman, and even told me that he was going to make a difference in math and science,” Dr. Mathison said. “He was driven and had mentors who have really challenged and helped get him to where he’s at as well.”
Dr. Mathison said the award is a major accomplishment to receive, with many Nobel Peace Prize winners holding the award as well.
“I think Jerry’s already on a great path like many of our students are, and sometimes these awards are just affirmation of what they are already doing,” Dr. Mathison said.
Dr. Mathison said he’s confident Jerry will be successful in the future no matter which path he ends up taking, and hopes to see him visit MHS.
“I’d love to see him come back and talk about all of the cool things he’s learned,” Dr. Mathison said.