Penn Manor’s Scientist to Vie in Competition

National competitions, prize money and speeches at MIT are all part of 15-year-old Ben Clark’s busy schedule.

Clark, who’s interested in Astrophysics as a major in college, is currently competing in the National Siemens Competition and is one of 60 regional finalists. The competition starts off with 1300 competitors overall and is broken down by regions. Clark is one of the 30 individual finalists, while there are also 30 teams.

Clark is known as a whiz kid at Penn Manor High School, top in school rank, level of classes and all-around academic achievement. He is looking at many top colleges around the nation, and they, most likely, are looking at him.

“Cal Tech and MIT are the only schools I have applied to so far,” said Clark.

With an astonishing GPA of 4.772 Clark is sure to get in to one of his top schools, being Cal Tech and Princeton, in that order.

“My focus for college will be my courses and studies, fun stuff also, I’m not boring, but I do find studying and research fun,” Clark said.

Clark in fact is doing his own research on stars and has formulated a new theory about them, hence the Siemens competition and possibly a little stardom for himself.

Fifteen-year-old senior of Penn Manor Ben Clark.

The Siemens Competition winner gets a prize of $100,000 and Clark is already guaranteed $1,000 in scholarship money for winning his region.

“I was looking for binary stars and I used a very large, low-quality data set, but through my analysis I was able to get useful results,” said Clark about his data.

Clark’s evidence is deemed so useful that he is going to MIT on November 5 and 6 to read his research.

It all started one year ago when he got involved in Astrophysics research.

“I decided to look for a mentor so I sent an email to Dr. Spergel, the head of the Astrophysics department at Princeton. Two days later I got an email back providing me with a mentor, Dr. Blake,” said Clark.

“Astrophysics is going through its golden age,” said Clark.

As he started his analysis he realized that they could look at close binary stars. He knew that binary’s have significant applications to star formation so Clark and his mentor decided to focus on that instead.

“That’s what I love about science, theories lead to new theories,” said Clark.

“He (Blake) suggested that we use SDSS (Sloan Digital Sky Survey)  to look for M dwarf  and brown dwarf binaries. M dwarf is a small star and a brown dwarf is between the size of a star and planet,” Clark said.

The competitions have some serious competitors. “I would like to win, but I don’t think I’ll win,” said Clark. “I don’t like to assume things like that.”

“I also have no idea what I’ll be up against,” he added.

Clark’s results will be published in a major Astrophysics journal.

Clark also has competed in various other math and physics competitions. A significant math competition Clark is very proud of was the United States of America Math Olympiad (USAMO). Only 500 people in the nation qualify and Clark qualified in 2009 and 2010.

For Physics, Clark competed in the United States of America Physics Olympiad (USAPhO) and was one of 300 in the nation to qualify. He also made it to the semi-finals of that competition.

By Brian Dunne