Potomac senior Carolyn Beaumont ranked fifth in the 78th Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation's oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. Her achievement, which comes with a $90,000 award, was announced on March 12 at a black-tie gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
Carolyn was named a Top 40 Finalist in January. She and her fellow finalists spent Sunday, March 10, presenting their research projects to the public, as well as to a number of leading scientists. The following day, the finalists divided into groups by state of residence and met with government officials and staffers. Carolyn and the other Virginians spoke with a member of Senator Mark Warner's staff about their work and the importance of government support for STEM education.
As a student in Potomac's Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) program, Carolyn spent two years working on her geochemistry research project. She examined the way water reacts with magma, with the goal of testing the theory favored by geologists about the composition of water during a volcanic eruption. In addition to her Potomac research advisor, Dr. Isabelle Cohen, Carolyn worked with an outside mentor, Dr. George Cody at the Carnegie Institute of Science's Geophysical Laboratory. There, she used technology that allowed her to create models of magma and observe its reaction with water. Ultimately, Carolyn's discoveries turned out to be remarkable: She showed that volcanoes react differently depending on the amount of water present in the magma. This runs counter to the thinking of professional geologists, making Carolyn's project a source of new and important information.
Dr. Cohen observes, "Not many high school students can say that they have disproved a scientific theory. That accomplishment indicates the magnitude of Carolyn's potential as a scientist."
Reflecting on the competition's final days, Carolyn notes, "All of the questions that the judges asked were really interesting. I got to meet some professional geologists – one of them actually works in the same field that I've been studying, and I loved hearing her perspective on my research. It was amazing to have my work recognized in a way that allowed me to have an impact on the scientific community!"
She adds, "This was one of the best weeks of my life. I didn't feel pressured to make the top 10. All I was hoping to get out of the experience, I had already gotten. It was great to be able to share my research, and I loved talking with so many people who are passionate about science! I was really happy about the entire process; winning fifth place was just the icing on the cake."
Carolyn will attend Harvard University in the fall..