TAMS student to compete in national Intel Science Talent Search

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- A student at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at the University of North Texas 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 2 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 said. "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 Dr. 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 said.

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 said. "They were instrumental to my interest in chemistry."

In addition to Chyan, 7 other TAMS students were named Intel semifinalists.

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.

The Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) is a two-year residential program at the University of North Texas 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 2 years, they enroll at UNT or another university to complete their education.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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