The University of Chicago Laboratory High School
About Corona Chen
Corona demonstrated that viable microbial communities, including fungi, exist deep within ordinary concrete. Corona hopes that her work will someday lead to the bioengineering of some of these microbes, enabling the biological repair of cracks in concrete and thus reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with concrete production.
Understanding Incidental Microbial Communities Inside Ordinary Concrete Toward DecarbonizationView Poster
Corona Chen, 17, of Chicago, investigated the existence of microbial life deep within ordinary city concrete for her Regeneron Science Talent Search environmental science project. Corona demonstrated that these microbial communities are affected by the environmental conditions within the concrete as well as the environmental conditions that surround it, like the presence of water, air or soil. During her work, she also demonstrated that viable fungal microbes exist within the concrete. She appears to be the first person to have done this. Her work may someday lead to the bioengineering of some of these microbes, enabling the biological repair of cracks in sidewalks and bridges. Extending the lifespan of concrete would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its production.
Corona, the daughter of Junhong Chen and Zheng Li, is captain of the varsity girls’ tennis team, a member of the math team, and founder and president of the science fair and research club at the University of Chicago Laboratory High School. She has performed in Carnegie Hall after winning the American Protégé Piano Concerto Competition and plays the violin and piano for her school’s chamber music group.
Beyond the Project
Corona cofounded a startup company with her father named ECoronAir, to explore the feasibility of commercializing electronic air cleaners that operate based on nanoscale corona discharges, thereby reducing potentially harmful ozone emissions.
FUN FACTS: Corona was named after nanoscale corona discharges, the topic of the patented research project her father was working on when she was born.