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Recent high school grads headed to Yale with Davidson Institute fellowship money

Two Portland teens were awarded $25,000 each as 2021 Davidson Fellow Scholarship winners for their astounding achievements in scientific research.

Vedanth Iyer, 17, a Sunset High School graduate and 18-year-old Lila Schweinfurth, an Oregon Episcopal School grad, are among 20 students who won Davidson Fellow scholarships for 2021. Both students were scheduled to be honored with a virtual ceremony.

Iyer and Schweinfurth are both headed to Yale University.

The Davidson Fellows scholarship awards $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000 college scholarships to exceptionally high-achieving students 18 and younger who have completed a remarkable piece of work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, or music. The program has been recognized by Forbes as "one of the nation's most prestigious undergraduate scholarships," and as one of "the 10 Biggest Scholarships in the World" by Since its establishment in 2001, the program has provided more than $8.6 million in scholarship funds to 386 students.

The program is offered by the Davidson Institute, which was founded in 1999, along with other opportunities, programs, and services, like the Davidson Academy of Nevada. The Davidson Institute recognizes, nurtures, and supports gifted youth, and provides opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.

COURTESY PHOTO: DAVIDSON INSTITUTE - Vedanth Iyer was one of two Portland-area teens awarded a $25,000 Davidson Institute fellowship."I am extremely honored to have been named a Davidson Fellow this year and am thankful to the Davidson Institute for supporting me in my future educational endeavors, and inspiring me to continue my science research in college and beyond," Iyer said. "For me, becoming a Davidson Fellow not only means being part of a group of highly gifted and intellectual scholars that are quite literally changing the world in a multitude of ways, but it also means inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers to continue seeking out innovative solutions to our world's most pressing problems."

As the current batteries are proving to be insufficient sources of power for all of the world's technology from smartphones, laptops, medical devices, and the recent expansions in the electric vehicle and renewable energy industries, the demand increases for higher energy storage. This is where Iyer's science project comes in. Iyer, the recent Beaverton grad, developed a novel chromium-doped cathode material that has the potential to significantly increase the electrochemical cycling efficiency of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and its energy capacity by fivefold, making it a highly promising solution for next-generation Li-ion batteries.

COURTESY PHOTO: DAVIDSON INSTITUTE - Lila Schweinfurth is among a select number of students who received a $25,000 Davidson Institute scholarship.Schweinfurth, who went to school in Raleigh Hills, cites inspiration from classic horror film, "The Birds."

After watching Alfred Hitchcock's classic movie, Schweinfurth wanted to know if the marine biotoxins that were ingested by birds and moved up the food chain along the Oregon Coast and in the food she consumes. Using two decades of archived Oregon shellfish biotoxin data along with satellite imaging data, Schweinfurth was able to predict dangerous levels of biotoxins up to 5 weeks in advance using the highly accurate models she developed. Using her model, individuals and communities can be better informed about the rate of biotoxins for recreational shellfish harvesting, potentially reducing biotoxin ingestion globally.

"I'm incredibly honored to be named a Davidson Fellow," Schweinfurth said. "I'm very grateful to the Davidson Institute for their recognition of my work, and I'm humbled to be joining such an amazing community."

Both Iyer and Schweinfurth are now ivy league students at Yale. Iyer plans to continue his research in physics and computer science while Schweinfurth, a Yale Hahn Scholar, plans to continue her education in the sciences, using her background in both computer science and biology to pursue independent, versatile research.

"The 2021 Davidson Fellows Scholarship recipients have risen to the challenges of a global pandemic to complete significant projects within their fields of study," Bob Davidson, founder of the Davidson Institute, said. "To be awarded this recognition, these students have shown immense skill and work ethic, and they should be commended as they continue their educational and research journeys while continuing to work to solve some of the world's most vexing problems."

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