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Westford Student Named Semifinalist in Science Competition

High Schooler Worked in Research Lab

Ankan Dhal, right, with Daniel Sandman.

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Westford Academy student Ankan Dhal was named a semifinalist at this year’s Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, a prestigious annual competition that aims to “prepare the scientific leaders of tomorrow.”

Dhal’s project is based on original research in materials science that he had carried out at UMass Lowell’s Center for Advanced Materials under the direction of Chemistry Prof. Daniel J. Sandman.

“Nearly 2,000 students nationwide submitted projects in various fields via the internet,” says Dhal. “About 300 students were chosen as semifinalists and regional finalists by judges from various universities such as MIT, Caltech and Carnegie Mellon.”

Dhal’s studies, conducted primarily during the past two summers, were made possible through scholarships from the Army’s Research and Engineering Apprentice Program. He used organic molecular solids, known as co-crystals, to obtain crystalline specimens that could potentially be used for electro-optical applications. Ankan prepared and characterized the crystals, recorded their infrared spectra and performed thermal analysis.

“I’m very happy that I was selected as a semifinalist,” he says. “I worked Fridays and vacations in the lab. I’m happy my work received this honor because it’s a testament to the importance of non-covalent derivitization and co-crystals.” 

“Ankan was able to obtain a useful, thermally reactive material, and his work will ultimately be published,” says Sandman. “While still a high school student, his performance is comparable to that what might be expected of a junior or senior undergraduate.”

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