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DOE science competition at Oak Ridge National Laboratory names student winners

November 11, 2008 — Six top national science students, including one grand prize winner, were awarded Monday at the U.S. Department of Energy's inaugural Science and Energy Research Challenge (SERCh) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Garrett Marino of Hazlet, N.J., a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who interned this year at ORNL, won the SERCh national poster competition and a $10,000 science scholarship.

Marino, whose winning research poster was titled "False spring occurrence over the Southeastern United States, 1901-2007," competed against 83 other top undergraduate research students from colleges and universities across the country. Students presented abstracts, posters, and oral presentations detailing high level research they completed as DOE undergraduate interns.

Bill Valdez, director of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists for DOE's Office of Science, said the students and their research "represent the future of our Nation and how we will stay an innovative economy for decades to come."

"The first annual Science and Energy Research Challenge highlights the research being done by 84 of the most promising undergraduate students in the United States, who are working on some of our most serious energy, environment and national security challenges," Valdez said. "These students performed their research at a DOE national laboratory or at a U.S. university that received funding from DOE and worked side-by-side with world class scientists on some of the most important scientific issues of our era, including producing new classes of nano materials, improving energy production, and exploring the origins of the universe."

Student projects focused primarily on energy solutions, with competition categories in biological sciences, materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics, and environmental science.

The first-place winners each won $3,000 scholarships. The winners, their categories and schools are: Kiran Rangaraj, University of California, Berkley, biological sciences; Diana Donati, materials science and engineering, University of California, Davis; Pawan Rastogi; chemistry, Columbia University; Gabriel Caceres, physics, Augustana College; and grand-prize winner Marino in environmental science.

Second-place winners were awarded scholarships of $1,500 and third prize winners received $1,000 scholarships.

The Science and Energy Research Challenge is part of DOE's ongoing educational outreach efforts, to encourage students to pursue careers in STEM areas - science, technology, engineering and math.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.