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MIT Technology Review

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  • Mariangela Lisanti

    Age:
    18

    Unchallenged by high-school physics labs, Mariangela Lisanti went looking for a “real” project the summer after her junior year. She approached nanotechnology expert Mark Reed at Yale University. His challenge: design a better way to measure the conductance of a single atom in a nanowire. With virtually no help, Lisanti taught herself quantum mechanics, built an apparatus at Yale and generated data. Reed was floored: “In two months she did what often takes postdocs one or two years—with significantly less supervision.” After her senior year, Lisanti improved her apparatus so it generated more data in a day than other approaches did in three months. She spent $35 on parts; other setups cost $100,000.Reed says Lisanti also unveiled aspects of conductance “never observed before.” Researchers nationwide have asked to use her technique. The first student to place first in the Intel Science Talent Search and the Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition, Lisanti is now a freshman at Harvard University. “My passion,” she says with a joyous smile, “is to explain things that haven’t been explained.”