Flinn Scholar and Flinn Alum recognized at innovation celebration

February 1, 2006

By hammersmith

A Flinn Scholar will win the Nobel Prize in 2012.

That was the prediction made by master of ceremonies Ed Zito to the hundreds of guests attending the 2005 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

Zito’s prediction seems premature for a program that is only celebrating its 20th anniversary this year; however, he could have pointed to two Flinn Scholars being recognized at the ceremony to support his assertion.

Melissa Lamberton with prize checkMelissa Lamberton (’05) and Andy Lowe (’96) were honored at the 2005 Governor’s Celebration for Innovation. Lowe was celebrated as a member of DMetrix, recognized as the 2005 Innovator of the Year Start-Up Company. Lamberton, a freshman at University of Arizona, was one of four high school students named “Future Innovator of the Year.”

Lowe graduated from University of Arizona in 2000 with a degree in computer science. In August 2002, he was hired by DMetrix as a senior software engineer. DMetrix is a start-up based in Tucson. The company has built a new type of microscope that captures digital images of laboratory slides at speeds faster than the competition.

Lamberton is an environmental policy freshman at UA. The graduate of Pueblo High School in Tucson earned the honor as future innovator for inventing chambers made out of plumbing parts that simulates conditions on Mars.

“No scientific equipment could handle the cold conditions,” she said. “I had to invent this because nothing else would work.”

The goal of the project was to examine how bacteria from Earth would react in the soil of Mars. Her project is part of a larger effort to study how to prevent earth microbes from contaminating other planets.

Lamberton has been entering science fairs since the second grade. As an eighth grader, she participated in the Discover Young Scientists Challenge where she won an award to attend astronomy camp in Hawaii. That camp sparked her interest in astrobiology and Mars.

“It was cool to me that people were making a career out of looking for ‘little green men,'” she said.

Lamberton won first prize in her division at every regional science fair she participated in during high school. As a junior, her Mars project caught the eye of someone working at UA’s Lunar and Planetary Lab who invited her to volunteer at the lab and work on the Phoenix 2007 Mars mission.

She was able to focus on the issue of planetary protection, and with the lab’s support and equipment, design what she needed to conduct the Mars experiment, for which she was recognized.