IMSA Senior Tavis Reed won the 2015 Gold Medal in the Chemistry/Biochemistry division of the National Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) competition. His award was announced in July at the 106th Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Philadelphia.
Reed’s gold medal represents an achievement across a field of more than 700 local medalists who nationally represent 150 ACT-SO chapters.
The IMSA senior advanced to the national competition after being named a local winner of the DuPage County ACT-SO program. Reed, a 17-year-old from Oswego, was guided by IMSA faculty and scientists from Argonne National Laboratory to develop a process for the production of cellulosic ethanol. This next-generation biofuel is made from cellulose, the structural part of plants.
“My professors at IMSA—Dr. Thurmond, Dr. White and Dr. Dosch—played a very pivotal part,” Reed said, “in not only my success at the National ACT-SO competition, but in the larger impact of my project as well. Without their support and the use of their labs, my cellulosic ethanol process would not be a reality.”
Reed has a patent pending for his fermentation process, which he hopes to license to an energy company, as his process has the potential to develop fuel in a more efficient, cheaper, and more environmentally conscious manner.
IMSA President, Dr. José Torres, joined Reed on August 14th for the DuPage County ACT-SO Annual Community Leaders Breakfast that was hosted by College of DuPage and held at Benedictine University. There Reed presented his research and was honored for his work.
“Tavis exemplifies the impact that talented Illinois students can have on improving society when they are cultivated through high quality education and student-based inquiry opportunities,” said Torres. “This is why Dr. Carl Sagan said that IMSA is ‘a gift from the people of Illinois to the human future.’”
Reed’s achievement adds to IMSA’s 29-year history of igniting and nurturing creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition through excellence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and unique student-based inquiry.