houston teen will be hanging with the first lady

At tomorrow night's State of the Union address, 18-year-old Li Boynton of Houston will have one of the best seats in the house. She was invited by the White House to attend the address... and she'll be sitting in the box with none other than First Lady Michelle Obama: Teen scientist gets high honor from Obamas.

She'll also find out Wednesday whether she has advanced to the finals of Intel's Science Talent Search, the nation's oldest and most prestigious high school science honor. Did I also mention she's been accepted to Yale? So yeah, she's smart.

The paper for the competition, "The Use of Bioluminescent Bacteria to Detect Environmental Contaminants," details how living organisms that give off light can be used as sensors to detect contaminants in water. Boynton actually developed a sensor made from bioluminescent bacteria. Did I mention this girl is smart?

The White House released a statement this week on why Boynton was selected to sit with the First Lady:
"The President has repeatedly stated that he is counting on today's students to meet the Grand Challenges of the 21st century -- challenges such as developing new domestic energy sources that will fuel the economy while reducing dependence on foreign oil and protecting the climate, and delivering better health care for Americans at lower cost. The White House sees in Li Boynton's early achievements inspiring evidence that she is among the Nation's next generation of leaders who will meet these challenges. Her work developing a novel method of detecting contaminants in water -- a problem that haunts one billion people around the world today--reflected a great confluence of scientific insight and caring for others. We hope other students will look at what she has done and will be inspired to immerse themselves in science, engineering and math and do their part for the nation and the world."
Boynton is one of 300 semifinalists for the award. If she's selected as one of the 40 finalists, she'll travel to Washington, D.C. in March to participate in final judging. The top award is $100,000. But first things first -- Li will be hanging Wednesday night with the First Lady. More here: Bellaire teen invited to State of the Union.

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