University of Rochester

Two Local Teens Make Semi-Finals in National Science Competition

January 16, 2009

Two 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 Jay Amin of Rush-Henrietta High School and Rachel Kurchin of The Harley School are among the 300 semifinalists nationwide from the 1,600 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 its science and math programs. The students, both 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 on Jan. 28.

Amin built a diagnostic instrument to measure the duration and shape of ultrashort optical pulses, and demonstrated it by measuring a pulse just one trillionth of a second long. Kurchin performed computer calculations of the distortions that occur when a spherical fusion fuel capsule is viewed through a cylinder and then made measurements that verified her predictions.

"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," says Stephen Craxton, LLE physicist and director of the high-school program.

LLE's primary mission is to study the conditions necessary to create and sustain fusion using the laboratory's 60-beam Omega and 4-beam Omega EP lasers. Involving young adults in state-of-the-art science is also important to LLE's scientists and engineers.

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