Oregon State University

Young Portland scientist goes to D.C.

Meghana RaoPortland ninth-grader Meghana Rao was scouring the Web for information on biochar when she stumbled across an intriguing paper by a researcher named Markus Kleber. When she realized he was at Oregon State University, just a 90 miles down the freeway from where she was a student at Jesuit High School, she emailed him with “a few ideas.” Before long, she was conducting her own experiments in Kleber’s lab in Crop and Soil Sciences with guidance from the professor and graduate student Myles Gray. 

By the end of the 2013 school year, Rao was standing on the White House lawn describing her experiments on the carbon-holding capacity of biochar to President Barack Obama. She was one of a handful of high school students nationwide selected to present their science projects at the third annual White House Science Fair. 

“I took my biochar stove with me — it’s a little at-home pyrolysis unit,” she says.

The White House honor came on the heels of Rao’s winning a Young Naturalists Award from the American Museum of Natural History for the same project in 2012.

Rao is a senior at Jesuit this year and will graduate in spring 2014. 

Click here to read more about Rao and Oregon State's biochar research in the Fall 2013 issue of Terra Magazine.




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