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Fox Lane’s Jacob Feldman Named a Regeneron Scholar

Jacob Feldman stands in front of a colorful wall at Fox Lane High School

This week, Fox Lane High School senior Jacob Feldman was named a top 300 Scholar in the 82nd Regeneron Science Talent Search — the country’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition — for research he conducted over the summer at the University of Pennsylvania in the research group of Professor Daniel J. Mindiola.

Jacob’s project, entitled The Geometry and Reactivity of a Novel Zirconium-Centered Coordination Complex Supported by a bis-PN Ligand Framework, involved catalysis, which is the scientific process that uses chemical substances known as catalysts to increase the rate of reactions.

“I researched specific kinds of compounds called coordination complexes,” Jacob said. “We synthesized two novel complexes. The first one may have catalytic properties for certain reactions, so that’s exciting. And the fact that we were able to go from the first compound to the second is promising in that it indicates that the ligand system we’re using is flexible, which is an important aspect of catalysis.”

While the project itself is confidential, Jacob explained that its potential is far-reaching.

“If the complex we were able to synthesize is ultimately able to execute one or multiple reactions more efficiently than existing technologies, that could lead to more sustainability, as catalysts allow for reactions to be run in a manner that consumes fewer raw materials, uses less energy, and generates less waste. It’s better for the environment and better for society as a whole because consumer products can be manufactured more cheaply.”

His interest in the subject came after reading an article by a research team in Germany that used a uranium-based catalyst to produce hydrogen. The catalyst that they used could be hypothetically derived from uranium waste products from nuclear energy.

“They said, ‘let’s take this waste that’s a bad thing and turn it into a catalyst that can do a good thing,’” Jacob explained. “I just found that so incredible. That’s what kickstarted my interest in catalysis.”

When Jacob talks about science, his passion, curiosity and awe of the subject are impossible to miss. He notes the “dances” that occur at a molecular level, marvels at the chemical reactions involved in consumer goods and speaks with enthusiasm about processes in physical science that the average person is not even aware of. His teachers were not at all surprised that he was chosen.

"Jacob's project is an ultimate example of perseverance and resilience,” said Science Research teacher Amy Pirro. “He has met many obstacles and worked tirelessly to produce the project that earned him this honor. He truly is a role model for current and future students in our program.”

Pirro and Science Research teacher Kelli Kinlen believe that whatever Jacob decides to do in the future, he will be successful.

“If this project is any indication of what impact he will have on the world when he finds his career path of choice, he will most definitely be a game-changer and a groundbreaker in the world of research,” said Kinlen. “We are so very proud of him."