Spending his summer at the University of Florida (UF) researching projects to optimize a popular, scientific, imaging tool, twelfth-grader Kevin Zhu continually goes the extra degree.
While the task was considered independent research and study, Zhu had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers in UF’s Interdisciplinary Microsystems Group (IMG) labs. It took him about seven weeks to complete his project.
Zhu used the principles of refraction to improve the scanning range of Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) imaging devices. This technology is most commonly used in the scientific and medical fields, due to its small size and ability to be modified and integrated. MEMS imaging devices can be utilized to diagnose diseases, complete brain scans and incorporate into microscopes. “So what I did was I submerged a scanning mirror into a submersion fluid…and what [refraction] does is whenever light passes through a fluid air boundary, it bends a little bit because it travels at different speeds,” Zhu said. “And so different fluids have different indices of refraction… I was trying to use that concept to increase the scanning range of a mirror so that doctors and scientists would have more utility out of their tools.”
Out of almost two thousand people, Zhu was one of 300 winners to win the Regeneron Talent Search. The award is a prestigious, nationwide research-based competition for high school seniors. He first caught wind of the competition at the UF summer research program and decided to enter to see where it would take him. Zhu received $2000 for his work as well as another two thousand for the school, which he donated to Pine View’s science department.
“Initially, I was actually very very surprised [to have won] because my project was one over the course of seven weeks, when a lot of other people had been doing research for multiple years. And so the fact that I could use my project and use my scientific research and see that people were interested in it, it kind of made me reconsider the perspective that I had over my research and just how important scientific research is,” Zhu said.
Lately, he has been continuing his independent study and is working with nanoparticles — extremely small particles between 1 and 100 nanometers in size — to greatly further his research. “I think in the end this kind of research competition really wants you to continue your research and continue your research projects in the future,” Zhu said.