Student Q&A: Jason Zhang

2021 LRSEF participant Jason Zhang (Gatton Academy) went on to compete in ISEF’s 2021 virtual fair where he won a 2nd place award in the Chemistry category. We asked him about the experience.

Can you tell us a little bit about your project?
Jason: I developed a new chemical reaction that can create important pharmaceutical intermediates using visible light and a compound called a photocatalyst.

What did you think of the virtual ISEF experience? Did you face any challenges when preparing for the virtual fairs this year?
Jason: I thought the ISEF fair was pretty cool! It was nice to meet other Finalists on the Project Board. I also thought the judging went pretty well, even though it was virtual.

What was your favorite ISEF session and why?
Jason: My favorite session was the Excellence in Science and Technology panel. It was super cool to see Dr. Arnold Frances, who is a Caltech professor and 2018 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry! The most important lesson I learned from her was to take college and explore different subjects, from the sciences to the arts. After all, she took her first chemistry class in graduate school, and now she is a chemical engineering professor!

What advice would you give to other students who are facing challenges when doing STEM research?
Jason: I would advise students to never give up. My mentor and I planned on having a larger scope for my ISEF research project, but due to COVID, I had to lower the scope of my project. My advice is to not give up and continue to pursue your passion.

What’s next for you? Do you plan to continue your research?
Jason: I just graduated high school, so my next step is college. I hope to continue pursuing research during college!

What would you say is the most valuable takeaway or lesson you’ve learned form participating in science fairs?
Jason: My most valuable takeaway from science fairs is to enjoy what you do! Don’t perform chemistry research if you aren’t interested in chemistry. If you enjoy physics, do physics research. It is important to pursue your passion!