Young Scholar Shines Bright with Outstanding Academic Record & Performance

Young Scholar Shines Bright with Outstanding Academic Record & Performance

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

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   The renowned English physicist Stephen Hawking once said, “Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” Not everyone is destined to become a scientist; however, Hannah Laney is on course to impact the world of science and her community.  Laney is a senior at Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland and has been studying at the Gatton Academy in Bowling Green, Ky for the last two years. Laney has set an unprecedented bar with her current academic achievements receiving a perfect 36 score on the ACT, National Merit Scholar Semifinalist and most recently being named a Top 300 Teen Scientists through the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

   Laney has always strived to do her best in everything and set high expectations for herself since a young age.  Anita Laney, who is Hannah’s mother, remarked, “Hannah was very inquisitive as a child. She was always asking questions and had a different way of solving problems.  She preferred reading books to toys.  I had the opportunity to be Hannah’s teacher in the Gifted and Talented Program during grade school, which is when she first started loving science.  I vividly remember one conversation that stood out in my mind the most when she was in fourth grade.  The class was talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some responded policeman, teacher, or doctor. Hannah responded, ‘I want to make a difference in the world.’ I knew then that she thought differently on a social/emotional level.”

   In seventh grade, Laney took the ACT for the first time “just to get a feel for the test.” Laney was promised a trip to Universal Studios by her mother if she scored a 33 or higher.  Those bags were quickly packed! That first attempt score was a 34! As a junior, Laney was required by the state to take the test again and scored a 35.  “I was pretty happy with that, but my senior year I took it again and I wasn’t as nervous.  I think that’s what made the difference in getting the perfect score.  Getting a 36 was something I wanted to accomplish.” 

   Laney enjoyed taking math and science courses at Paul Blazer High School.  Her favorite subject was math and learning from math teacher Laura Hackney, who had Laney for Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus. Hackney commented on getting the opportunity to teach Laney, as well as Laney’s academic performance and character: “I am so proud of Hannah for all of her achievements at Gatton Academy.  She is a remarkable young woman and is among the most outstanding students I have ever had the privilege of teaching.  She has an incredible depth of understanding and asks thoughtful and insightful questions to gain understanding of relationships between concepts.  Hannah exemplifies the characteristics of a true scholar, consistently scoring the highest marks in her classes.  She maintains a humble spirit and never acts as though she is any different from other students.  In addition to being a distinguished student, she is an admirable person.  Hannah is an individual with impeccable character, never leaving any question about her integrity.”

   After completing two years at Paul Blazer High School and taking all the science and math courses available, Laney decided to spend her last two years of high school at Gatton Academy. Western Kentucky University’s website described The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science as “Kentucky’s first residential two-year program for gifted and talented juniors and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Gatton Academy is a recipient of the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from Insight Into Diversity Magazine and the Innovation Partnership Award from the National Consortium for Secondary STEM Schools.” Laney wanted the opportunity to take her passion of math and science to the next level, conduct research, as well as be with others who shared her interest. At 16 years old, Laney left the comfort of her hometown, parents and friends and traveled 270 miles to start a new venture in Bowling Green.

   Laney quickly transitioned at the Gatton Academy and served in various capacities, such as the Co-President of Math Club, a math peer tutor, and member of the Gatton Bible Study and International Clubs. Laney found her niche and felt more at home when she became a scientific researcher for one of Western Kentucky University's professors. She participated in a summer internship for six weeks as part of her research.  Laney’s research project was titled, "Synthesis of 4d- and 5d-Based Transition Metal Oxides" and mentored by Dr. Jasminka Terzic with WKU Physics & Astronomy. In her research, Laney grew crystals called 4d- and 5d- transition metal oxides in order to measure their properties. These synthesized crystals may potentially advance current technology, such as developing improved methods of data storage. It was this experience that led to Laney being selected for the Regeneron Science Talent Search. 

   The Regeneron Science Talent Search is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. It recognizes and empowers the most promising young scientists who are generating innovative solutions to solve significant global challenges through rigorous research and discoveries. Laney was selected among nearly 2,000 applicants across the U.S. based on her outstanding research, leadership skills, community involvement, commitment to academics, creativity in asking scientific questions, and exceptional promise as a STEM leader demonstrated through her original, independent research project and essays.  Laney was awarded $2,000 for making it to the top 300 students selected. 

   In addition to her perfect ACT score, Laney scored in the top 1% of students in Kentucky who took the PSAT.  This score and her outstanding academic record earned her National Merit Scholar Semifinalist.  Laney will find out if she is a finalist in February. She will also find out at the end of this month if she will be in the top 40 selected for the Regeneron Science Talent Search. Collectively, Science Talent Search alumni have received millions of dollars in scholarships and gone on to be awarded Nobel Prizes, Field Medals, MacArthur Fellowships, and numerous other honors. Laney dreams of being a part of this group. 

   Laney would like to pursue an MD-PhD program where she could have a medical practice and still do medical research through an academic medical center. She has applied at several prestigious schools and is awaiting to see what she is offered before finalizing her decision in March.  Whatever path Laney pursues, success will be sure to follow.  She will continue to make a difference.  Laney’s work ethic and dedication are unmatched. Hannah Laney is bearing the torch of discovery proudly in her quest for knowledge.

   Just remember to follow the advice from physicist Albert Einstein, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Best wishes on a bright future, Hannah Laney!

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