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Plano East Student Invited to Present Science Research to President Obama at White House

October 21, 2010

Amy Chyao, a junior at Plano East Senior High School, traveled to the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, October 18, where she joined seven fellow science fair winners from across the nation in presenting their research to President Barack Obama, who praised Amy and her peers for representing the next generation of science innovators. The trip was sponsored by the Society for Science and the Public. Read the Society's press releasePDF.

Amy Chyao with President Obama

Amy Chyao is pictured with President Obama during her October 19 science research presentation at the White House. (AP photo)

Amy's research to develop a photosensitizer for photo dynamic therapy (PDT), an emerging cancer treatment that uses light energy to activate a drug that kills cancer, earned her a $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award, awarded for the first time in 2010 in honor of the Intel co-founder and retired chairman and CEO. Her research earned first place at the world's largest pre-college science competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, this year.

Meeting the President

Amy was among a select group of young scientists who presented their award-winning research findings to the President this week. According to a special Dallas Morning News report by reporter Todd J. Gillman, President Obama remarked to Amy, "How exciting is this? It's really inspiring."

Amy Chyao with peers

Amy Chyao (second from left) is pictured with fellow ISEF science fair winners who presented their research to President Obama at the White House. Students are Laurie Rumker, Amy, Courtney Jackson, Eric Delgado, Nicholas Rajen, and Erika DeBenedictis. They are pictured with Elizabeth Marincola, president of the Society for Science and the Public.

President Obama asked Amy whether she had connected with scientists "who might be really inspired by these ideas and might move it along." Amy said that, since winning the Intel competition, her adviser is "talking with a lot of people who are actually implementing" the therapy. For some tests, she will begin working with the biology department at the University of Texas at Dallas.

According to the News report, President Obama commented at a White House event held later on Monday about Amy's research. "If that doesn't inspire you, if that doesn't make you feel good about America and the possibilities of our young people when they apply themselves to science and math, I don't know what will," he said.

Watch President Obama's speech, including comments about Amy's cancer research. video MP4 video (155MB)

Giving Teachers Credit

Amy with teachersAmy is pictured with teachers Vashka Desai and Julie Baker, her science fair sponsors from Williams High School and Plano East Senior High School, respectively.

Amy, who has attended Stinson Elementary School, Murphy Middle School, Williams High School and is now a junior at Plano East Senior High School, credits her teachers for encouraging her along the way with her science research. "I would have liked it better if my teachers had come too (to Washington, D.C.)," Amy said in an interview with the Plano ISD communications department. "Although President Obama mentioned teachers' contributions in his speech, I was thinking about how wonderful it would be if my teachers could have shared that moment with me. I want to thank all of my teachers from Plano East, Williams, Murphy, and Stinson."

What was the highlight of the presentation with President Obama in Washington, D.C.?

Amy ChyaoThe interest President Obama showed during the presentations was amazing and inspiring. He asked challenging questions like most science fair judges would, eagerly played with models as most of our friends would, and bragged about us like most parents do. I remember talking about my project and forgetting that I was talking to our President. Also, sitting in the same room and listening to his speech was absolutely amazing. His intelligence and powerful presence left a huge positive impression to me.

Amy is pictured (above) at the International Science and Engineering Fair where she won first place and a $75,000 award.

Highlights of the visit also included meeting Bill Nye the "science guy," Steven Chu, the secretary of energy, and other distinguished guests. I was so impressed by the work of other students, especially the presentation by this year's Intel Talent Search winner.

What was the schedule of activities in which you participated on Monday related to the science presentation?

We went to the White House to set up our presentation in the early morning, around 8:00 am, and we were placed into three groups, 11 projects (including mine) in the room the President came in, another room with three more projects and another room with all the other invitees that was later used as the President gave the speech. I waited with all the other kids for about three hours. I was the last one in the room to present my project.

What advice do you have for young students with an interest in science research?

Amy Chyao and Linda FlackAmy is pictured with Linda Flack, secondary science coordinator, at Plano ISD's annual Trustee Awards of Excellence ceremony.

It is so cool to be able to work on something you truly love. I would suggest that younger students find a topic that they can be really interested in and become an expert on that topic. Doing a science project can take a lot of time and effort. I have been doing science fairs for about 10 years already, and it takes a long time to become good at it, and I still see many things I could change to improve. But the effort you put in definitely pays off.

Many aspects of science research show up in school as well - reading, writing and presenting. I respect all of my teachers more because of the things they taught me in school.

Award-Winning Student & Mentor

Amy at spelling beeAmy is pictured as the champion of the 2006 Dallas Morning News Regional Spelling Bee. She won again in 2007 when she participated in the national bee. She now tutors young spellers through "Spell Success," a program which she founded.

Amy's achievements are numerous, including participation as a Scripps National Spelling Bee contestant in 2007. She continues to encourage young spelling bee participants through a local program that she founded called "Spell Success." Amy was also an award-winning cellist in her middle school orchestra. Last year, she flew to Poland to meet leading scientists for a Nobel training program. At Williams High School this spring, she was voted to receive the top student award by the high school's faculty.

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"The interest President Obama showed during the presentations was amazing and inspiring. He asked challenging questions like most science fair judges would, eagerly played with models as most of our friends would, and bragged about us like most parents do. I remember talking about my project and forgetting that I was talking to our President! And also, sitting in the same room as him and listening to his speech was absolutely amazing. His intelligence and powerful presence left a huge positive impression to me."

~Amy Chyao, Plano East Senior High School student and Intel International Science and Engineering Fair First Place Winner