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Star High School Students Mentored at Stony Brook Reach Intel Finals


Star High School Students Mentored at Stony Brook Reach Intel Finals

Professors Memming Park and Moira Chas praise the originality and potential of the students’ research impacting fields of neurobiology, mathematics

Group Memming Lab
Michael Yifan Li, left, in the Stony Brook Neurobiology laboratory of Professor Memming Park, Center, along with other members of the lab.

Stony Brook, NY, March 8, 2016 – Two high school students mentored by Stony Brook University professors are heading to the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search (STS) finals in Washington, DC, from March 10 to 16. The students, Michael Yifan Li, who attends James M. Bennett High School in Salisbury, Md., and Rachel Zhang, who attends Parkway South High School in Manchester, Mo. conducted their independent research projects at Stony Brook University as part of the Simons Summer Research Program and the MIT-PRIMES  program, respectively.

Their Stony Brook University mentors, Memming Park, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior (for Michael Li), and Moira Chas, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Department Mathematics (for Rachel Zhang), observed and encouraged the high school students, both of whom developed original and insightful research that the professors think has significant potential in their fields.

Michael Yifan Li

Michael Yifan Li

“When I heard Michael was an Intel finalist, I was very pleased because his performance was growing exponentially during the Simons research training,” said Professor Park. “After the program he returned to my lab and continued to develop his ideas, worked continuously, and reached a certain threshold in his findings.”

Professor Park explained that Michael Li’s contribution to the field of Neurobiology is that he showed how information is processed in one area of the rat brain.

“The bigger impact of his finding is that it tells you how sensor information from the outside world is integrated in the brain process, which tells us more about things like decision-making,” said Professor Park.

Rachel Zhang

Rachel Zhang

Regarding the overall body of research by Rachel Zhang, Professor Chas declared` that “Rachel made an original contribution to mathematics, with her own ideas that are clear and beautiful.”

Rachel’s work concerns surfaces, which can be understood as the outer layer of a solid object.

“Rachel showed an amazing knowledge of mathematics for someone her age,” said Professor Chas. “She studied curves on surfaces, and in her research was able to describe an interesting structure related to the number of crossings of curves on surfaces.”

The 2016 Intel STS finalists are from 38 high schools in 18 states. A total of 40 national finalists were selected from 300 semifinalists and 1,750 entrants based on the originality and creativity of their scientific research, as well as their academic achievement and leadership.  The students will compete for more than $1 million in scholarship awards provided by the Intel Foundation. 


About Stony Brook University

Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. Since welcoming its first incoming class in 1957, the University has grown tremendously, now with more than 25,000 students and 2,500 faculty. Its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 100 universities in the nation and top 40 public universities, and Kiplinger names it one of the 35 best values in public colleges. One of four University Center campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, putting it in an elite group of universities that run federal research and development laboratories. A global ranking by U.S. News & World Report places Stony Brook in the top 1 percent of institutions worldwide.  It is one of only 10 universities nationwide recognized by the National Science Foundation for combining research with undergraduate education. As the largest single-site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook is a driving force of the regional economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.


Greg Filiano
Media Relations Manager
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University
Office of Communications and Marketing



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