University of Rochester

Three Local Teens Make Semi-Finals in National Science Competition

January 18, 2007

Three local teens have earned recognition in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search for research projects carried out last summer at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). Intel announced this week that Alexandra Cok of Allendale Columbia, Zuzana Culakova of Brighton High School, and Rui Wang of Fairport High School are among the 300 semifinalists nationwide chosen from the 1,700 who entered the competition, which is often regarded as a "Junior Nobel Prize."

Each student will be awarded $1,000, and each school will receive $1,000 to support their science and math programs. The students, all seniors, have a chance to be included among the 40 finalists chosen to attend the Science Talent Institute in March in Washington, D.C. to compete for college scholarships totaling more than $500,000. The finalists will be announced Jan. 31.

Cok performed hydrodynamic computer simulations to design an experiment for the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a laser currently under construction in California that will become the world's largest laser when complete. Culakova worked on an experimental project investigating a new chemical treatment that promises to improve the damage resistance of diffraction gratings, optical components used in the new Omega EP laser currently being built at LLE. Wang carried out molecular modeling computations of a class of dyes and designed some new dyes with improved optical properties.

"Our program provides a unique educational opportunity for talented high-school students. They're amazingly motivated, and it's exciting to see them recognized as among the best in the nation," said Stephen Craxton, LLE physicist and high-school program director.

LLE's primary mission is to study the conditions necessary to create and sustain fusion using the Omega and NIF lasers. Involving young adults in the state-of-the-art science is important to LLE's scientists and engineers.

Applications for the summer program are sent to area high schools and placed on the LLE Web site at or can be obtained by calling Jean Steve at (585) 275-9517. For more information, contact Craxton at (585) 275-5467.