SARATOGA -- When she was young, Eesha Khare celebrated her birthdays with guests shooting off Alka-Seltzer-powered rockets and writing notes with "invisible" lemon juice ink readable when heated by a light bulb.

That fascination with all things science, and an abiding inquisitiveness, led her to investigate how to create a longer-life, quicker-charging battery for cell phones and the myriad other devices essential to modern life. Her research won her fame and one of the coveted prizes for high school scientists: the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, and an accompanying $50,000 grant.

After winning a grand prize in Santa Clara County's Synopsys Championship fair, Khare was one of 1,600 students chosen from across the nation to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. She won the top prize in the chemistry category, then went on to be one of two students to win the second-place award. A student from Romania, Ionut Budisteanu, placed first.

Under the mentorship of Yat Li, a chemistry professor at UC-Santa Cruz, Khare developed a new nanomaterial, an ultra tiny material that measures less than 100 nanometers (or one-ten-millionth of a meter) in at least one dimension. She hopes her material -- hydrogenated titanium oxide and polyaniline, if you really want to know -- can be used in supercapacitators. Those are high-capacity units that store energy via static charge.


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All this could lead to fewer instances of mobile phones pooping out for lack of power.

Khare, 18, has "an insatiable curiosity about how science works," her sophomore year chemistry teacher, Jon Penner said. He said she is among the top five students he's had in 37 years of teaching.

Khare in turn credited Penner and other teachers at Lynbrook High in San Jose for guiding and inspiring her: biology teacher Kathleen Loia set her on a research track, research coordinator Amanda Alonzo offered her support and advanced-placement biology teacher Nicole Della Santina taught her the importance of communication.

There are many brilliant young scientific minds, Khare said, but not all of them can communicate the significance of a particular science project, and effectively share excitement over a discovery or development.

Khare said she drew on skills learned in English class with teacher Nelda Clark. In the science-technology powerhouse that is Lynbrook, Khare said Clark took it as her mission "to teach these science minds the importance of the humanities."

In fact, while Khare loves science, she exercises the other sides of her brain and body as well. She was on the varsity field hockey team for four years, was the content editor for Lynbrook's student newspaper, the Epic, and practiced classical Indian dancing for 10 years. She's bilingual, speaking Hindi at home, and is learning Spanish.

"Science is a great way to do research and contribute to society, but if you don't have these other interests, you won't be able to find a problem and connect with people," Khare said.

She thinks her project caught attention because it offers a potential solution to a tangible problem that everyone understands.

After relaxing and traveling to India with her family to visit relatives this summer, Khare will be off to Harvard in August.

Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.

Eesha Khare
Age: 18
Hometown: Saratoga
Graduated from: Lynbrook High, San Jose
Attending next year: Harvard University
Awarded: $50,000 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award
Achievement: Working on a supercapacitor (an energy-storage device) that charges quickly while storing a lot of energy, and is able to last for more charge cycles than conventional batteries. It has potential applications for cell phones, laptops and electric vehicles.