A local high school student has been selected as a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search for his work on the University of Rochester's Omega laser, the most powerful fusion laser in the world. Aman Narang of The Harley School developed a computer model that predicts how the spectrum of the massive laser will behave as scientists change the characteristics of the light it produces.
"Aman's program confirmed that the laser was working as expected," says R. Stephen Craxton, a physicist in the Theory Division at the University's Laboratory for Laser Energetics. "We'd added some new features to the laser recently such as a new diagnostic instrument that measures the spectrum. Dr. William Donaldson, who had built the instrument, asked me to calculate what it should see, and I realized this would make a great project for a student."
Craxton started Narang working on the computer model during a summer program offered by the laboratory to local high school students to give them experience conducting research. At first, Narang thought programming the computer model was just busywork, but when he heard Craxton talk about how other students' projects had made a real difference at the laser lab, he worked on the problem in earnest. By the end of the eight-week program Narang had modeled the spectrum produced by the Omega laser and obtained results that agreed in remarkable detail with measurements made directly with a spectrometer.
Aman, a recent immigrant from India, is one of several Rochester-area students who have been honored in national science competitions during the last decade for work done at the laboratory. In the latest competition, more than 1,500 students from around the country entered the competition, and only 300 were chosen as semifinalists. For his accomplishment, Narang 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 one winner will receive a prize of $100,000.