Last March, Westmoore High School graduate Mary Masterman won a $100,000 scholarship at the annual Intel Science Talent Search for building an inexpensive yet accurate spectrograph, a device that measures wavelengths to identify the fingerprints of different molecules.
The award brought national attention to the budding scientist when "Saturday Night Live"'s "Weekend Update" segment poked fun at it, saying the spectrograph was a "fancy way of saying 'baking soda volcano.'"
"I never would have imagined I would be talked about on 'SNL,'" she said. "It was so exciting, and such an honor."
But this wasn't the first time Masterman had been recognized for her scientific achievements. She had spent the past three summers traveling around the country to attend prestigious science programs, including the Summer Science Program in New Mexico and the Research Science Institute's summer research camp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
This past summer, her studies took her overseas. Masterman joined 60 other students from around the world for four weeks of at the Dr. Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute in Rehovot, Israel. The program took place at the Weizmann Institute of Science, one of the world's foremost centers of scientific research and graduate study.
"I was a little afraid to go, because of all the negative things I'd heard about Israel on the news," said Masterman, now an MIT student. "But by the end of the program, I didn't want to come home." -Lauren Parajohn