A summer research project at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) has earned a local high school student recognition as a semifinalist in the first Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition. Kendra Bussey, a senior at Pittsford-Sutherland High School, will receive a certificate of commendation and a medal for being named one of 22 regional semifinalists, and one of 108 national semifinalists. The Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition is a new program funded by the Siemens Foundation to promote math and science education, and is unrelated to the talent search previously sponsored by Westinghouse and now by Intel.
Bussey conducted her research last summer during LLE's program for high school students. Working with research engineer Kenneth Marshall, Bussey synthesized a new near-infrared dye that Marshall had designed. The dye contains optically active or "chiral" end groups which, when dissolved in a liquid-crystal host, causes the host material to change from a planar to a helical structure. "As far as we know, no one else has reported this behavior yet in this class of dyes," Marshall says. This finding extends the dye's potential applications to LCD information displays, near infrared optical switches, shutters, polarizers and sensors.
The laser lab's primary mission is to study the conditions necessary to create and sustain fusion using the 60-beam Omega laser. Involving young adults in science, however, is another important goal that LLE's scientists and engineers take seriously.
"It's very rewarding," says Marshall, who has been involved with the summer program since it began a decade ago. "The students are young, vital, and eager to get involved. Since they have so much ambition, you really have to work hard to keep up the pace. It's an invigorating experience."
Stephen Craxton, program director and LLE physicist, described Bussey as an ideal student. "It's gratifying that people like Kendra apply to our program," says Craxton. "We do our best to find challenging projects for them and to show them real science."
A growing number of students have completed the program with top-quality research projects related to LLE's fusion program. In addition to Bussey's accomplishment, seven previous students have been named semifinalists in the Intel competition (formerly the Westinghouse Science Talent Search), one of whom was a finalist. Students working at the laboratory make up the majority of Rochester-area students so honored during the past decade.
Applications for LLE's summer program are sent to area high schools in February or can be obtained directly by calling Jean Steve at 275-9517. Students must apply during their junior year. For more information about the program itself, please contact Stephen Craxton at 275-5467.