Joshua Keegan, a senior at the Aquinas Institute, has earned recognition in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search for his research project at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). Keegan is one of just 300 semifinalists chosen from the more than 1,500 who entered the competition, which is often regarded as a "Junior Nobel Prize." For his accomplishment, Keegan and his school will each receive $1,000. Forty finalists will be chosen to attend the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C., in March, where they will compete for college scholarships totaling $530,000.
Keegan conducted his research last summer during LLE's program for high school students. Working with Research Engineer Mark Guardalben, Keegan wrote a computer program that models a new type of laser amplifier (known as an optical parametric chirped pulse amplifier) that will be needed for the super-powerful petawatt laser being designed at LLE. He proposed a three-stage design that has been adopted as the current baseline for this amplifier.
LLE'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.
"This is yet another example of how high-school projects can provide real benefit to the LLE program," said Stephen Craxton, LLE physicist and high-school program director. Students working at the laboratory make up the majority of Rochester-area Intel semifinalists honored during the past decade.
Applications for LLE's summer research program are sent to area high schools in February or can be obtained directly by calling Jean Steve at (585) 275-9517. For more information about the program itself, please contact Stephen Craxton at (585) 275-5467.