Local Student Honored at White House
Meet Taylor Wilson-- a Reno local who designed a nuclear reactor, is working on groundbreaking medical research, and got invited to the White House this week.
And did I mention, he's 17 years old.
Wilson is a senior at the Davidson Academy in Reno, and he describes himself as an applied nuclear physicist. And you won't believe everything he's done, all before his 18th birthday.
"A lot of people say, 'Oh, you're just a kid. You can't have any experience in nuclear science.' And I say 'well, I've had about seven years of it."
Seven years of experience, because Wilson started studying nuclear physics when he was just 10 years old. He moved here four years ago to attend the Davidson Academy, and now he has his very own lab at the University of Nevada.
He showed us his nuclear fusion reactor, which he started building at age 12. It's the inspiration for his most recent invention: a scanning device that detects weapons grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium. Basically, it scans for nuclear weapons. This is technology that does already exist, made from rare materials, and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Wilson said he can mass-produce his version for a couple hundred bucks each.
"Instead of using the rarest and most expensive substance on planet earth, it uses water," Wilson said, "which is the cheapest and most abundant."
And it's more sensitive than its predecessors. He wants to use it to catch terrorists, so he took it to the White House Science Fair this week to show President Obama.
"The first thing he said is 'Why haven't we hired this guy?'" Wilson said about meeting President Obama. "He told the science adviser to go hire me, and he came to me with a job offer."
And that's not the only job offer Wilson got at the White House. The Secret Service also gave him a pretty hard sell.
"They said three things: the pay is good, we get lots of travel, and we get all the girls," Wilson said, laughing, "and I thought that was hilarious, coming from these otherwise very proper Secret Service agents."
But it's not a calling Wilson takes lightly. He agrees with President Obama-- his research is important.
"What impresses me so much is not just how smart you are," President Obama said at the science fair. "It's the fact that you recognize you've got a responsibility to use your talents in service of something bigger than yourselves."
"I like solving problems," Wilson said. "That's what really has an impact on me, and has an impact on the world."
Wilson has applied to a handful of top-tier colleges, but he's not sure where he'll end up. He is also enjoying working on his newest project: developing better technology to diagnose and treat cancer.