Science superstar at South Eugene HS shoots for $100K

EUGENE, Ore. -- A senior at South Eugene High School has just made it to the final round of the Intel Science Talent Search 2013, the oldest and one of the most prestigious pre-college science competitions in the nation.

Hannah Kerner Larson is one of only 40 students in the entire country to make it to the finals of the talent search, which carries a $100,000 grand prize for first place.

"I was just really amazed when I got that call that was like, 'Hi Hannah, you're an Intel finalist', and I was like oh my god," Larson said, scrawling notes inside the chemistry lab at South Eugene High. "This is a project about fusion categories, which are fundamental mathematical objects."

Larson, who takes math classes at the University of Oregon, said her project could help lay the foundation work for super computers of the future.

"This is still very theoretical, but if you develop a quantum computer, you'll be able to do computations exponentially faster," said Larson.

When she isn't busy solving complicated math proofs, Larson said she enjoys playing the piano as well as her favorite instrument the cello.

"I actually really love this cello," said Larson as she held the large stringed instrument. "The tone, and it just really makes me want to play it."

"I'm thinking about intonation very mathematically, but once I start playing, it becomes just beautiful," said Larson as she began to play. "In math, you really have to get into a problem and be committed to it, and it's the same in music."

In spite of her love of the cello, she might not be able to bring it with her to the finals competition. The Intel Science Talent Search 2013 finals will be held in Washington D.C. in March.

"I'm just excited to meet the other finalist," said Larson.

Intel will be handing out $630,000 in total scholarship money to the finalists.

After the competition, Larson said she is hoping to get the project she entered in the competition, titled "Classification of Fusion Categories of Ring Four" - which is published in a science journal.

Larson told KVAL News that after college she plans to teach at a university and start her own string quartet for scientists and mathematicians.