MIT to name asteroid after 16-year-old Minn. science student - New York News

MIT to name asteroid after 16-year-old Minn. science student

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A 16-year-old science student from Minnesota is enjoying more than some presidential accolades. Soon, he'll have some out-of-this-world recognition thanks to some research and MIT.

Jonah Butler is a genius who has been competing in science fairs since the 4th grade. He'll be entering college a year early in the fall, and anyone with extra cash might want to consider investing it in his research.

"Since I was a young child, I always had a passion for science," Butler said. "It is a seed that has continued to blossom."

Anyone who looks at a corn field may see the potential for a full crop, but when Butler looks out on the exact same landscape, he envisions solving the global energy crisis.

"We all know the price of fossil fuel continues to skyrocket, causing shortages and financial hardships across the globe," he said.

It's not the perspective of a typical 16-year-old, but Butler says "everyone has a variety of different gifts."

One of his is science.

"That's where the synthesis phase comes in -- generating new ideas to address tomorrow's problem," he said.

Butler's research is focused on transforming the byproducts of agricultural waste into renewable energy, and it's turning heads across the country even though many people might think his title -- Employing in situ Generated Peracetic Acid and Fungal Biosynthesis to Produce Biofuel -- sounds like it's in a foreign language.

"You want these long chains of cellulose that can be broken down into corresponding monosaccharides," he said.

Fortunately, the Science Fair judges understand the verbage, and at recent national competitions, Butler won some huge praise and prizes totaling nearly $18,000. Also, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology awarded him another honor -- the school will name an asteroid after him.

"Everyone knows he is smart," classmate Megan Elseth said. "To have him win all that and to have an asteroid named after him, it's kind of mind-blowing."

Butler's classmates agree he's the smartest kid at Sibley East High School. He's got a 4.6 weighted grade point average that includes several college level courses, including a speech class. In fact, he'll even teach when substitutes aren't familiar with the curriculum.

"It's just wonderful to see him soar like this," Christine Butler, Jonah's mother, told Fox 9 News.

Christine Butler is a biology teacher, and she couldn't be more proud of her son's commitment to make a difference.

"He wants to make it so it's truly a better world for generations to come," she said.

Butler is saving his science fair earnings to help pay for college and said his goal is to get a PhD in either chemistry or math as well as a master's degree in business. He hopes to one day own his own company focused on developing sustainable fuels from the environment.

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