Allderdice Student Advances in Prestigious Science Competition


Aidan Birkenfeld

Michal Hajlasz, an Allderdice student who recently advanced in the Regeneron Science Talent Search

Allderdice Senior Michal Hajlasz has advanced in the Regeneron Science Talent Search after winning two thousand dollars by placing in the top three hundred projects. Hajlasz is competing in Regeneron Science Talent Search with his project about molecule charges with the skills he has gained from University of Pittsburgh professor Dr. Daniel Lambrecht and his graduate student Dr. Wherling. Hajlasz has been working with Dr. Lambrecht since his freshman year in 2016 where he was mentored while actively studying Computational Quantum Chemistry. 

The Regeneron Science Talent Search, which has gone through many names such as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and the Intel Science Talent Search, is a nationwide competition for seniors in high school that evaluates young scientists’ ability to do original research and make an impact. The projects are reviewed and graded by a national jury of professional scientists. Out of the over two-thousand people who submitted a project, Hajlasz was named to the top three hundred. In the next couple of weeks, he will find out if he made it to the top forty, in which case he will go to Washington D.C. in March for Finalists Week. 

Hajlasz found out about the project through Allderdice Physics teacher Dr. Waldeck and  his sister, who was a finalist in the same competition three years ago. Hajlasz’s project is about molecules and their charges when pushed around. “Essentially I’m looking at how molecules build up charge when they are pushed around,” he said. “For example, if we place that molecule and put it under a road, when a car drives by it, it pushes the crystal around, building up charge, creating green energy. By using simulations, I can see how much charge builds up in different molecules, in order to find the best ones.”

Computational chemistry uses computer simulations to help solve chemical problems. Computer programs are used to satisfy methods used in theoretical chemistry. The computer programs allow scientists to calculate the structures and properties of molecules and solids. Since quantum chemistry deals with very very small units, computers are used to help gather data since it can not be done analytically. These computers give scientists accurate information, and although not one hundred percent perfect, they give unbelievably close data. 

With his findings from his experiment, the skills he learned from Dr. Lambrecht and Dr. Wherling, several essays, and a research paper, Hajlasz entered the Regeneron Science Talent Search. For having a top three hundred project, he was awarded two-thousand dollars, and in addition, Dr. Waldeck got two-thousand dollars for her to use in her classroom for being his in school mentor after Hajlasz took her AP Physics 2C class. 

Hajlasz is looking forward to hearing again from the Regeneron Science Talent Search to possibly advance farther, carrying his love for Allderdice with him. Hajlasz has done very hard work both in and out of school, so it is good to see him being rewarded and recognized for all his dedication.