O’Leary Lauded for Research in D.C., Meets President

Wheeling Central Catholic High School senior and star science student Vincent O’Leary was honored for his research on invasive crayfish this past weekend at the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search in Washington, D.C.

O’Leary was one of 40 finalists from across the country to take an all-expense-paid trip to the nation’s capital to present his scientific research and, as a very special treat, to meet the president of the United States.

“It was a pretty good highlight,” O’Leary said. “They kept saying it might not happen, but we met him Tuesday morning and he talked to us a little and shook our hands.”

O’Leary was the only student from West Virginia chosen to be a finalist from a pool of 1,700 applicants this year. He said he had to prepare a 70-page application including a paper, his grades and letters of recommendation to apply to the search, saying it was much more difficult than any college application he has put together.

O’Leary said the finalists spent three days being interviewed before presenting their work on Sunday at the National Geographic Society. The finalists also took several tours of D.C. in their down time. The top 10 winners were announced at a dinner Tuesday night at the National Building Museum, where the finalists presented their work to more than 700 scientists, congressmen and sponsors. Although O’Leary did not make the top 10, he said the experience was still amazing.

“The big thing I want everybody to realize is anyone can do this,” O’Leary said. “When I first applied I didn’t even know I would be a semi-finalist, but last night I was in front of doctors and laureates applauding my work. It can be really awesome.”

He also thanked his mentor, West Liberty University professor Zachary Loughman. O’Leary said Loughman had a big influence on his research.