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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:00 am

Boy, 13, publishes scientific paper

EVE SNEIDER | Blade, Toledo

TOLEDO – Most students fail the first midterm in Michael Young's organic chemistry lecture at the University of Toledo. In spring 2017, the average was a 50. But one student, Daniel Liu, scored a 99.

“He smoked the competition,” Young said.

Daniel is now a researcher in Young's lab. He co-authored a paper, published on May 22, that promises a faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly way to make pharmaceutical drugs and pesticides.

And he just turned 13-years-old.

Every year, Young has students join his lab. Daniel was interested right away. “I did a bit of background research,” he explained.

The University of Toledo's Environmental Health and Radiation Safety department does not allow children under 12 to be in labs. But with his parents' permission, Daniel was able to start work in Young's lab more than a year ago, when he was still 11.

“Having Daniel has definitely been interesting,” Young said. “On the one hand, his intellect is very much like an adult, but socially he's still a kid.”

Early on, Daniel had to be told to clean up and peppered fellow researchers with questions, which sometimes rubbed others the wrong way, Young said.

But now, “he's like a lab mascot,” the professor said.

Daniel blends in at the lab, handling chemicals, chatting with colleagues, and operating the Rotovap, his favorite piece of lab equipment.

He wears bright blue goggles over his glasses and an extra-small lab coat he brought for himself with a Buzz Lightyear T-shirt underneath.

Sometimes he has to stand on his tiptoes to grab what he needs.

In his time in the lab, he has learned to take initiative and to clean up after himself. “He's grown emotionally to the point where I consider that he's almost a regular undergraduate,” Young said.