Student Spotlight: Senior’s work on analyzing cyclones draws notice

Patrick Chi, a senior at Niskayuna High School, was a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search. (Photo provided by Patrick Chi)Patrick Chi, a senior at Niskayuna High School, was a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search. (Photo provided by Patrick Chi)

For Your Niskayuna

NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna High School senior Patrick Chi was announced as a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, one of only 300 nationwide.

Chi spent four to five months getting his project ready and then finishing it after the end of the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University last summer. During the six-week program, he spent from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday working in the labs on the campus.

“Patrick was an amazing student who worked very hard at a difficult problem,” said Brian Colle, his mentor through the Simons program. “He was able to master and understand some complex papers involving the topic of tropical cyclones and then he basically by himself came up with a nice experimental design or plan to tackle the problem.”

Chi worked with Colle through the program at Stony Brook to use his love of math and science to tackle the idea of how to categorize cyclones. The finished product was his 15-page paper titled “Using Power Dissipation as a Novel Approach to Rank and Categorize Tropical Cyclones.”

“There’s been a few attempts out there to look at the problem of ranking storms but Patrick was basically the first to do this with some raw data from the hurricane center to rank storms based on their power, how much force and energy the storms give off,” Colle said.

After working tirelessly for months on the research, Chi forgot when the results were supposed to be announced — Jan. 6.

“When I woke up that morning I knew the results were coming out but I wasn’t really expecting much. But in physics that day I completely forgot about the whole thing and I had gotten into physics and I got a text from a friend of mine that was in the program with me saying congratulations,” said Chi. “So I double checked and it was true — that was a pretty cool moment.”

Before getting to the point of that fateful text, Chi had to jump the hurdle that is the Intel submission process.

“We had to write an undergraduate science research paper and we had to submit that and the application process for lntel was pretty intensive we had to write two essays, one about a future problem and the significance of our research, a simplified abstract in common language,” he said of the process.

The research paper that Chi had to write was reviewed by his science bowl coach at Niskayuna High School, Paul Scott. At the time, Scott had no clue what the paper was but it was, of course, excellent, he said.

“I was pretty excited for him, was pretty happy for him,” said Scott about hearing the news. “He took something he really likes to do and then applied it to a hobby of his, knowing and learning about weather, and put it together — it always helps when students take something that they’re interested in and they’ll work on it hard and typically something good will come out of it.”

Chi was not won of the 40 finalists chosen Jan. 20. The three winners will be named March 15.

Niskayuna High School has had only three students make it to the semifinals of the Intel Science talent search in the past 22 years, according to Scott.

“To do this you need to have a good project, you need to set aside the time it takes to do the project and one of the things that’s often difficult is to convey what you did to other people,” Scott said. “It has to be clear and concise, not a lot of junk and gunk and stuff that gets in the way, he writes well in his science voice.”

The “science voice” is something that Scott has all his students work on in his classes.

Chi has big plans for his research — and further using his science voice. He hopes to submit the paper for publication in a scientific journal by the end of the year.

“Hopefully he gets it published ,” said Scott of Chi’s research. “Not many students in high school have a paper published in a scientific journal.”

Colle said the work is worthy of publication — as Chi leapt well beyond his years to complete the necessary research.

“The type of work that Patrick’s done is usually in the senior undergraduate level or even masters level,” Colle said.

Chi was able to use his love of math and combine it with his fascination with science — something he hopes to continue next year in college and in his eventual career.

“I’ve been realizing that the true reason I think I like math so much is because it’s universal,” he said. “The applications are endless.”