A student at UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science was named a finalist in the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search, one of the country's most prestigious science research competitions for high school students.
Wen Chyan, 17, is one of 40 finalists in the country and one of only two from Texas. He is being recognized for his work engineering new antimicrobial coatings for medical devices that could prevent common and sometimes deadly hospital infections.
Chyan, a second-year student at TAMS, will travel to Washington, D.C., in March to compete for the top prize and a $100,000 scholarship. Each of the 40 finalists will receive at least $5,000 in scholarships and a new laptop.
Chyan's work has already received national attention. In December, he won the top prize and a $100,000 scholarship at the national Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.
"I have been blessed with a variety of different mentors and teachers during my studies at UNT who have offered invaluable support for the entire duration of my research in the lab, and I would like to thank them again for all they have done," Chyan says. "At the same time, I am excited that I have the opportunity to again interact with other students who share my interest in science and math research and have the opportunity to learn about their projects."
For his research, Chyan created a polymer that prevents and kills bacterial biofilms. The polymer can be used on catheters, breathing tubes and other medical devices that have direct contact with patients. Chyan worked on the project with Richard Timmons, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
"I have relatives who have dealt with hospital infections, so I knew this project would have very direct, real-world applications," Chyan says.
Chyan hopes to major in chemistry or chemical engineering at Harvard or MIT. He said he would like to pursue a career at a research university where he can continue conducting research while teaching.
Chyan said his parents, who are both scientists, spurred his interest in science at an early age. He was home schooled by his mother, Jin-Jian, before arriving at TAMS, and his father, Oliver, is a chemistry professor at UNT.
"I caught my parents' passion for the subject," he says. "They were instrumental to my interest in chemistry."
In addition to Chyan, seven other TAMS students were named Intel semifinalists. They included:
- Firas Abuzaid, of Plano, who worked with Mohammad Omary, UNT associate professor of chemistry.
- Matthew Amme, of Lewisville, who worked with Tom Cundari, UNT Regents professor of chemistry.
- Hua Chen, of Euless, who worked with Nandika D'Souza, UNT professor of materials science and engineering.
- Jonathan Dau, of Colleyville, who worked with Jannon Fuchs, UNT professor of biology.
- Kevin Holmes, of Colleyville, who worked with Angela Wilson, UNT associate professor of chemistry.
- Jeremy Lai, of Houston, who worked with Angela Wilson, UNT associate professor of chemistry.
- Mark Pavlyukovskyy, of Denton, who worked with Pamela Padilla, UNT associate professor of biology.
The students were among the 300 nationwide semifinalists and 14 Texas semifinalists chosen from a pool of more than 1,600 applicants. TAMS had more semifinalists than any Texas school. All Intel semifinalists received $1,000. Schools also received $1,000 for each semifinalist to use for math, science and research education.
Formerly the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, the competition began in 1942 and recognizes achievements in mathematics, science and technology research. Seven former finalists have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.
TAMS is a two-year residential program at UNT that allows talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while also receiving their high school diplomas. Students enroll in the academy following their sophomore year in high school, live in a UNT residence hall and attend UNT classes with college students. After two years, they enroll at UNT or another university to complete their education.
Sarah Bahari with UNT News Service can be reached at Sarah.Bahari.@unt.edu.