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Student’s Recognition from MIT is Out of This World

A familiar name in Oakland County will be plotted on the planetary maps of the future.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has named a minor planet after Detroit Country Day Schools junior Michael Shao, shown here at a 2013 science fair. (Photo submitted)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has named a minor planet after Detroit Country Day Schools junior Michael Shao, shown here at a 2013 science fair. (Photo submitted)

Not everyone can claim a planet, but Michael Shao can.

The Detroit Country Day School junior from Northville received the elite honor from the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which counts the 17-year-old among the top student scientists in the world.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It’s a special honor and reward, and an opportunity that most people don’t get. It shows how my hard work has paid off.”

He says that having a planet named after him is “a symbol of what you get from putting in the time and following through with your work.”

Each year, the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research, an MIT Lincoln Laboratory program, honors a select group of outstanding students and teachers with a minor planet named after them through their Ceres Connection program, which is a community outreach initiative to promote science education in fifth through 12th grades.

Honorees are judged by a 15-person committee, which includes professional astronomers from around the world.

Shao has received the coordinates for the minor planet MichaelShao, but hasn’t located it in the solar system yet.

Right now, he’s busy preparing for MIT’s Research Science Institute, a highly competitive summer research program that selects 80 high school seniors from around the world for on-campus work in scientific theory and off-campus work in scientific and engineer research.

Shao will be working at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. There, he will use his computation biology skills as he works with other scientists and analyzes data on diabetes research with mice. The data are expected to increase scientists’ understanding of diabetes and other health-related problems involving fat cells.

Shao is the Detroit Country Day School’s top scientific scholars – the go-to student when it’s science fair time.

In last year’s Intel Science and Engineering Fair Awards, Shao received a Best of Category for animal science and a first place award for his project, titled “Toward Understanding the Neural Circuitry Regulating Cold Sensitivity in C. elegans.”

Shao’s project, which analyzed a worm’s simple nervous system, was selected from those of 1,600 young scientists competing in the program from more than 70 countries, making him one of the top student scientists in the world.

“We are very proud of Michael and this accomplishment. His natural enthusiasm for learning that has led to multiple academic successes including this exciting honor,” Glen Shilling, Detroit Country Day School’s headmaster, said in a news release.

Shao said his achievements demonstrate the value of sticking with a research project, “even if you don’t seem to be getting the data” to prove a theory. He’s been in that position, but perseverance paid off.

“Just keep trying and you will be successful,” he said.

Shao is still deciding on a career path, but is leading toward engineering and computer science.

“Technology fascinates me,” he said.”I hope to get a job in the Silicon Valley community.”

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