TPHS senior honored in national science competition

Derek Liu (12) was named a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar in early January for his project titled “Arrangements of Simplices in Fine Mixed Subdivisions.” 

With approximately 1,800 applicants per year, Regeneron STS is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. In January, the top 300 applicants were named scholars, including Liu, and on Jan. 24, 40 of them will be named finalists. 

Liu’s researched a new theorem by utilizing specific tilings. 

“My project concerned a class of specific tilings of tetrahedra using smaller tetrahedra, triangular prisms and skewed boxes,” Liu said. “From that, we analyzed the tilings of tetrahedrons with those shapes and proved a new theorem by taking a novel projection of a tetrahedron along one of its edges.” 

Liu developed his project through the PRIMES USA Program for Research in Mathematics, Engineering and Science for High School Students -– a research program run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that pairs high school students with mentor students from MIT. Liu worked alongside Yannick Naunheim, a doctorate candidate at MIT. 

“The research process consisted of weekly meetings where we discussed problems and potential approaches,” Liu said.

Having competed and placed in many other math competitions – like the International Math Olympiad and USA Math Olympiad – this one proved different for Liu as it was research-based.

“Research is different because we are trying to prove something that isn’t known yet – like you may be searching for something that simply doesn’t exist,” Liu said. 

However, this is what draws Liu to math: the process of searching for solutions through experimentation.  

“I would consider it an art,” Liu said. “It’s about taking ideas that you’ve learned before and then creating something you’ve never seen before –and that’s really what art is.”

Read on Issuu.

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