A sophomore student at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science University of North Texas has been selected as a finalist in this year’s Intel Science Talent Search — the country’s most esteemed pre-college science competition, where every year 300 students are chosen to be semifinalists. Each semifinalist wins a $1,000 cash prize from the Intel Foundation, and another $1,000 for his or her school.
The lucky few selected as finalists will win an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. between March 5 to 11, 2015, where they will be given a lifetime opportunity to display their work to the public, meet prominent personalities in the STEM industry, and have a shot at winning $1.25 million in awards.
Lily Liu authored a study, titled, “Oxidative Cleavage of Methoxyethane by Transition Metal Atoms: A Computational Study on Catalytic Properties of Metals and Performance of DFT Functionals,” which helped her stand out and be chosen as one of the country’s 40 finalists. The study, which was conducted under the mentorship of UNT Regents Professor of Chemistry Angela Wilson, sought to understand the effect of transition metals on the degredation of lignin, the second most plentiful biomass component on earth, commonly found in plants.
“Being a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search is a great honor, and it means so much to have the opportunity to present my work to the public. This is a new experience that I’m excited to learn from,” Liu said.
When lignin is degraded, it could be harvested as a source of renewable energy and high-value chemicals. According to a press release, “Liu also evaluated the accuracies of a set of density functionals, which are computational approaches used to model large molecular systems. The results could help experimentalists determine the most suitable transition metal for metal catalyst designs for lignin decomposition, and provide theoreticians additional information for density functional analysis.”
“One of the most significant opportunities TAMS students have is to be mentored by UNT professors, who are at the cutting edge of their fields. In this environment, our talented students have flourished as researchers, and have consistently had a strong presence at the Intel Competition. We are very proud of them,” said TAMS Dean Glênisson de Oliveira.