An Illinois teen is being recognized for his efforts to make cellulosic ethanol. This article from the Chicago-area Daily Herald says 17-year-old Tavis Reed, a senior at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, won the 2015 gold medal in the chemistry/biochemistry division of the National Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics competition, besting more than 700 students from 150 ACT-SO chapters across the nation.
He did so by developing a process — for which he has a provisional patent — for the production of cellulosic ethanol, a “next-generation biofuel” made from cellulose, the structural part of plants.
The process uses bacteria to make ethanol as a potential fuel source in a cheaper and more environmentally conscious manner. He’s now working to find a way to scale up his research and make sure its results can be repeated in large quantities.
“That’s really important to me,” he said. “I feel like for my generation, the environmental impact that humans have on the world is a lot more evident than it has been in earlier decades.”
Tavis is unfailingly enthusiastic about science, said Sarah Soltau, his mentor through Argonne National Laboratory’s ACT-SO high school research program.
“He’s got many more ideas than I’d expect as a high school student,” she said. “He’s gone above and beyond anyone else I’ve seen at the high school level — and some even in college.”
Tavis’ teacher admits she had to learn a lot, just to keep up with the teenager.
The ACT-SO award was announced in July at the 106th Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, held in Philadelphia, which Tavis actually had to leave early to tutor some incoming students.