It takes little more than a nanosecond to realize that Alice
Zhao, 16, is not your average high school senior.
one thing, she's on the student council and is president of her senior
class at Sheboygan North High School. She's on the tennis team and
active in debate and forensics. And she's bright and
"I'm pretty extroverted," she
But she is soaring above the average this
weekend as one of 40 finalists in the national 2010 Intel Science Talent
Search, also known as the Youth Nobel Prize, in Washington,
She earned her way as a finalist in the contest,
billed as the most prestigious science research competition for high
school seniors, through her work as part of a research team at
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
research abstract begins: "Gas dynamic spraying of nanoparticles is a
direct fabrication technique for non-structured coatings and bulk parts
without coarsening the nanoscale structure."
more, but you get the idea.
"In super, super layman
terms, we had to have very high temperatures and very high pressure" to
spray very small particles onto metallic surfaces, "which is really hard
to do," Alice said.
Her research will help create a
process whereby industrial parts can be spray-coated instead of having
coatings baked on.
"It is less expensive, more
efficient and more portable," she said.
in Washington, D.C., Thursday to present her project to a panel of
judges, some of whom are Nobel Prize winners. She also will meet members
of Congress and even, perhaps, President Obama, she
When she got the call informing her that she was
an Intel finalist, she reacted as any teenager
"I thought I was being punked, totally," she
said. "I said, 'Are you serious?' But when I heard people on the speaker
phone and they told me I would be getting a package at precisely 4 p.m.
on Thursday, I knew it was legit."
Most of her
friends were oblivious to the magnitude of the
"Until I told them I might meet Obama. They got
excited about that," she said.
The Intel competition
has a grand prize of $100,000. Alice is already guaranteed prizes of
$8,500 and a laptop computer.
Her father, Yougui Zhao,
and her mother, Conghua Wang, arrived this weekend and will stay for
the awards ceremony in Washington on Tuesday. Rules, however, require
Alice to stay in a hotel with the other 39
"I'm most excited about meeting the other
39 finalists. I've already met some and talked to others," she said.
"They're all excited about science like me. We have a lot in common.
Just to be around highly intellectual and highly motivated students will
be really cool."
Those are qualities Alice herself
She has been playing classical piano since
she was 5. When she was in second grade she invented a compact disc
cleaner and finished third in the National Invent America
Both her parents are
"Growing up, our dinner conversation around
the table was about thermal dynamics. Stuff like that," she said.Alice
hasn't decided where to go to college, but candidates include Harvard,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford. She hopes to major
in biomedical engineering, she said.
engineering because it's so applicable to life," she said. "Math and
science can be kind of theoretical, but with engineering you take a
problem, find the answer, and do it and you're done. Next
Music she finds relaxing and debate she says
can be stressful.
"In speech and debate, you meet so
many interesting people. In music you learn aspects about yourself that
math and science don't touch. You can explore yourself," she
Alice Zhao works with
lab partner Joe Marsho on a thermodynamics experiment in her AP
Chemistry class at Sheboygan North High School. Zhao is among 40
national finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search 2010. Photo by Bruce Halmo/The Sheboygan
Sheboygan Press Article
by Dan Benson