BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Briarcliff Manor senior Mark Moretto may be surprised with his selection as an Intel Science Talent Search semifinalist, but his teachers are not.
The 17-year-old was the only student from Briarcliff High School selected as a semifinalist in Intel’s Science Talent Search, which is “the nation's most prestigious pre-college science competition,” according to the group's website. The Intel award recognizes 300 students and their schools as semifinalists each year to compete for $1.25 million in awards, according to the website.
The list will be narrowed again in the coming weeks as 40 finalists will be selected to go to Washington, D.C., in March to participate in final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists and compete for the top award of $100,000, according to the website.
Moretto said it had been a goal of his to become a semifinalist in the competition since he joined Briarcliff High School’s science research program as a sophomore.
“It’s really nice, but it’s been a really big surprise, too,” Moretto said. “I’m very happy and I really hoped it would happen, but I never expected it. Intel is very competitive, so it’s a huge honor for it to happen, and it feels good that someone I don’t know is looking highly on my research.”
Moretto spent several months working with science research mentors at the University of Maryland. He credited his mentors and his teachers at Briarcliff High School as the keys to his success.
“I definitely couldn’t have come this far without their help,” Moretto said. “I think what helped a lot was, I found something I was really interested in, so it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a lot of work but it’s not brutal.”
Briarcliff High School science teacher and mentor Kim Dyer said Moretto is one of the most hardworking individuals she has come across.
“Mark has worked so hard for this since day one,” she said. “He’s a very bright young man and really a top-notch student. He has put so much work and passion into this project, and he’s so deserving of this award.”
Moretto's project is titled “Deep Impact Spectral Observations of Naturally Occurring Mini-Outbursts.”
If Moretto doesn’t go into aerospace engineering, he said, he would like to pursue his passion of writing and developing scientific research papers. Dyer said it’s a goal she sees him accomplishing sooner than most in his field.
“I could see him going on in this field, and if I picked up an astronomy journal five or 10 years from now, I might actually see his articles,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I saw him do it even sooner than that.”