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Three Students’ WKU-mentored Research Honored in 2013 Siemens Competition

wku threestudentsBOWLING GREEN, Ky. (11/2/13) -Two Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky at WKU students and one South Warren High School student have had their WKU-mentored research recognized by the Siemens Foundation as national semifinalists in the 2013 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

Isaac Kresse, a Gatton Academy senior from Louisville, was recognized in the individual competition. Julia Gensheimer, a Gatton Academy junior from Bowling Green, and Jack Broaddus, a South Warren High School junior from Bowling Green, were honored in the team category.

The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology is known as the nation’s premier research program for high school students. This year 2,440 students registered for the competition with a total of 1,559 projects submitted for consideration; 331 semifinalists were named.

“The Siemens Competition is as big as it gets in high school research recognition. Being named a semifinalist puts these students in an elite crowd of the nation’s top high school researchers,” said Derick Strode, the Gatton Academy’s assistant director of academic services.

Strode’s comments were echoed by Dr. Matthew Nee, assistant professor of chemistry, who mentored Kresse.

“Many WKU and Academy students are involved in undergraduate research with faculty members in our department, but the Siemens Competition demands a considerable effort after the laboratory work is done,” Nee said. “It is a great opportunity for students to see that only a small fraction of the research process is the actual experiments. The weeks of effort spent analyzing data to reach sound conclusions and preparing the contextualized report are more representative of the full cycle that professional researchers must complete.”

Kresse discussed how his research expanded on his Gatton Academy coursework.

“While working with Dr. Nee, I was able to develop a reactor for analyzing reaction mechanisms in a way that few had ever done before. I find it exciting to learn something you can’t just find in a textbook and then use that knowledge to create something new,” Kresse said.

Gensheimer and Broaddus developed a team project through WKU’s Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology under the direction of Dr. Yan Cao, director of ICSET and professor of chemistry.

Dr. Cao said diligence and teamwork made Gensheimer and Broaddus a successful research team.

“Julia and Jack are both highly motivated and hard-working students. They always had insightful ideas on how to carry out their research. I was surprised by their abilities to handle sophisticated scientific work so early in their research experiences and to work so well as collaborative partners,” Dr. Cao said.

Reflecting on her experience, Gensheimer said, “Not only did I learn a lot about graphene, but working at ISCET and entering the Siemens Competition taught me time management, communication skills, and the research process from experiment design to a complete lab report. Best of all, my partner and I were able to work with wonderful mentors and share our discoveries with others.”

Kresse’s study was supported over the summer by the Gatton Research Internship Grant. Both Gensheimer and Broaddus were supported over summer through the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED Program.

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