Kevin Lee, graduating senior from University High School in Irvine, has received recognition and numerous awards for his project titled “Strongly Coupling the Mechanical and Electrical Dynamic of the Heartbeat in a Diffuse Interface Model.”

In his project, Kevin created a mathematical model of a heartbeat. He cites his inspiration for looking into the workings of the heart to a newscast about athletes dying due to cardiac problems.

“These are people who are in the best shape they can be, and work to keep their body healthy and moving, but they were dying of issues that people who are usually unhealthy die of,” said Kevin. “I was curious as to why and how that could happen.”

At around the same time, Kevin was taking a differential equations class at the University of California, Irvine. He said, “I remembered that there were a lot of problems in assignments that dealt with heartbeats, and I bridged the gap.”

As a result of his curiosity, Kevin went to the Francisco J. Ayala Science Library and spent a significant amount of time researching heart models.

“There were a few equations present, but they were mostly flawed and inefficient because they weren’t fast enough to keep up with the moving heart muscles,” said Kevin. “These equations are necessary for understanding how heart attacks work and how different prescription drugs affect it. I wanted to make a more efficient model so we can better understand how this all works."

For his work, Kevin won the Senior Sweepstakes Award at the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair. He also was an Intel Talent Search Finalist and took second place, receiving a $75,000 scholarship.

Most recently, Kevin was named Student of the Year by the California State Science Fair, which is an award given to the senior that the judges believe best exemplifies the qualities necessary for success in science and research.

According to Kevin, his interest for science came about naturally. “I was always interested in how things work and [build]. Doing research was simply an extension of what came naturally to me, and it’s what brings ideas to life.”

“My advice to younger students is to not be afraid of making mistakes. That’s how you learn is by trying new things and seeing what needs to be done to improve them,” said Kevin.

Kevin is the President of the Math and Physics club at his high school, where he also plays piano for the Jazz Band. He also runs an afterschool math program at Turtle Rock Elementary, where he helps prepare students for math competitions and motivates younger students to develop an interest in math.

Following his high school graduation, Kevin will be attending Stanford University as a Physics major.