Jonathan Simon is a young man who knows where he’s headed --- toward a career in science.
A senior at Montgomery Blair High School, Jonathan has been working at ARL on a project in diffractive optics under the mentorship of ARL researcher Dr. David Mackie. He came to ARL through Blair’s magnet program last summer to begin work on the project, which involved finding an efficient way to design diffractive lenses on a very small scale.
His project wound up as one of the finalists in the recent Intel Science Talent Search, one of the nation’s most prestigious science competitions for high school students. Although the project was the most important factor, the judges also took into account Jonathan’s school record and his performance during a series of oral examinations of his science and engineering knowledge.
His work at ARL also led Jonathan to co-author and present his first scientific conference paper – a poster presentation for an Optical Society of America annual meeting.
“I have had a great time working here,” Jonathan said. “There was some stress but all the people in the optics branch were great.”
Jonathan’s co-workers at ARL were impressed with his work ethic and maturity.
“He put in a lot more hours than required and I found him very diligent and precocious. His contributions were intellectually mature,” Mackie said.
Mackie’s senior colleague, Dr. Joseph Mait added, “I have met very few graduate students who had Jonathan’s understanding and appreciation for the problem we were working on.”
ARL is one of about 35 Washington-area institutions that collaborate with the Blair magnet program. The collaborations give students access to top-of-the-line equipment and expertise that would not be available in the school. The students work full time during the summer and some, like Jonathan, choose to continue during the school year. Jonetta Russell is the coordinator of the research projects for the Blair magnet program and Jonathan has high praise for her.
“She keeps the projects on track but if there’s any stress, it doesn’t come from her,” he said.
Jonathan added that his younger brother will also go to Blair.
As for Jonathan, he’s headed for the California Institute of Technology in the fall on a full tuition academic scholarship where he plans to meet up with a professor who has a collaboration ongoing on a project with ARL. Jonathan said he might want to collaborate with the professor and ARL on a project.
Jonathan said he found his experience at ARL rewarding. “The most value in the short term was doing the project but in the long run, I think, my most valuable experience was just having the opportunity to work with the researchers here,” he said.
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