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Santa Monica College Student Wins Top Science Prize  

By Lookout Staff

January 5, 2010 -- A recent Santa Monica College student beat out some of the nation's top young scientists, winning an award from the Department of Energy for his improvements to the lithium battery.

“I was competing against students from universities all over the country, including Ivy League schools,” John Cook said. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I’m with the best and the brightest.’

More than 900 students from across the country competed in the 2010 Science & Energy Research Challenge, a field that was winnowed down to 15 when Cook won second prize in the Energy division of the competition.

Cook, a home-schooled Los Angeles native, was encouraged to try out for the prestigious competition by his SMC chemistry professor Roman Ferede. With Ferede's support, Cook enrolled as an intern at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and from there enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley.

He invited Ferede to be his advisor at the competition because she had steered him into his internship and supported him throughout his studies.

“SMC really prepared me for Berkeley,” Cook said. “The professors step up their game and give you a lot of work and it is challenging.”

He worked with Ferede on her research involving yams and nutrition, and SMC chemistry professor Jamey Anderson taught him how to a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instrument to examine the structure of molecules.

Cook went on to develop cheaper, safer and greener lithium ion batteries for electric-powered vehicles, the project that won him a $1,500 prize from the Department of Energy.

“It was a big honor and privilege for John to be selected not only as one of the semifinalists but also to win a prize in such a program,” said Ferede. “It shows his excellence and dedication to his studies, but also is a testament to the quality of instruction at SMC.”


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