“She has a way of thinking that fits right into academic research at the highest level, and that’s so rare in a student of her age.” —Faculty Research Advisor Isabelle Cohen
Carolyn Beaumont, a senior at The Potomac School in McLean, has been named a Top 40 Finalist in the 78th Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. In achieving this honor, she joins the ranks of Nobel Prize winners, MacArthur Foundation Fellows, and other distinguished alumni of the Science Talent Search. Nearly 2,000 students nationwide entered the competition this year.
A student in Potomac’s Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) program, Carolyn has been absorbed in her research for the past two years. Initially interested in astrochemistry, Carolyn ultimately decided to focus her research on geochemistry. She developed a project to examine the way water reacts with magma, with the goal of testing the theory favored by geologists about the interaction and water’s composition during a volcanic eruption.
Students in the SERC program have a faculty research advisor, as well as a research mentor outside school. Carolyn worked with Dr. George Cody at the Carnegie Institute of Science’s Geophysical Laboratory. There, she was able to use technology that allowed her to create models of magma and observe its reaction with water. She achieved this by mixing water with different types of melted glass, because the degradation effect of magma’s high temperatures on rocks results in notable glass formation. Her discoveries turned out to be truly remarkable: She showed that volcanoes react differently depending on the amount of water present in the magma. This runs counter to the current thinking of professional geologists, making Carolyn’s project a source of new and important information within the geochemistry community.
“The way water reacts with magma follows a different path from what was accepted,” she explains. “That has implications for the properties of magma and the way it’s used in other geochemical models, which is really interesting.”
Carolyn’s faculty research advisor, Isabelle Cohen, says, “All of us in the SERC program have admired Carolyn since day one. She has a way of thinking that fits right into academic research at the highest level, and that’s so rare in a student of her age. Doing the work she has done in the geological field is truly remarkable – it’s not often that you disprove a model.”
And Carolyn isn’t done being a trailblazer yet. She adds, “This kind of research is definitely something I want to continue pursuing in college. I really enjoyed the process.”
As a result of being named a Top 40 Regeneron Scholar, Carolyn will be awarded at least $25,000. She will participate in the Regeneron Finals Week competition in Washington, D.C., this March.