University of Rochester

Local Teen Makes Semi-Finals in National Science Competition

May 6, 2013

A local teen has earned recognition in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search for a research project she carried out last summer at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). Emily Armstrong, a senior at Our Lady of Mercy High School, is among the 300 semi-finalists nationwide chosen from the 1,712 who entered the prestigious competition. She will be awarded $1,000 and her school will receive $1,000 to support its science, math and engineering programs.

Armstrong plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she will study Physics next year. Talking about her research project at the LLE, Armstrong said that "the experience definitely confirmed for me my interest in pursuing a career in research."

Armstrong worked with Dr Matthew Barczys to investigate the feasibility of using Hartmann grids, an optical instrument, for measuring the wavefront quality of the UV portions of the OMEGA EP Laser System. She designed and made Hartmann grids, tested them experimentally, analyzed the images they produced, and compared her measurements with simulations. "We actually collected quite sophisticated data with sensors made by printing the design [for the Hartmann grids] onto standard projection slides," Armstrong said. She showed that Hartmann sensing is accurate and suitable to use on OMEGA EP.

LLE's primary mission is to study the conditions necessary to create and sustain fusion. Involving young adults in state-of-the-art science is another goal of LLE's scientists and engineers. "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 started its summer high school program in 1989 and has had 297 participants to date. Students working at the laboratory have made up the large majority of Rochester-area Intel semi-finalists honored during the past two decades. Armstrong is the 31st student from the LLE program to become a semi-finalist.

Application materials for LLE's summer program can be found on the LLE Web site ( For more information about the program itself, please contact Dr. Craxton at (585) 275-5467.