Local teen awarded $25,000 scholarship for environmental research project


The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program recently announced the 2020 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 16-year-old Emily Tianshi of San Diego. Tianshi won a $25,000 scholarship for her project, Biomimicking Torrey Pine Needles: Atmospheric Moisture Harvesting Device Through Alternating Hydrophilic and Hydrophobic Micro-Patterns. Only 20 students across the country are recognized as scholarship winners each year.

Emily Tianshi at a Science Fair
Emily Tianshi at a Science Fair

“I am humbled to be named a 2020 Davidson Fellow and am honored to join a group of students I have looked up to for several years,” said Emily Tianshi, a rising senior at The Cambridge School in San Diego. “I am extraordinarily grateful to the Davidson Institute for their dedication to cultivating young scholars.”

Tianshi, inspired by the natural world and devoted to creating social impact, investigated the incredible moisture harvesting abilities of Torrey pine tree needles. Using controlled harvesting tests and theoretical analysis, Tianshi fabricated a material and engineered a passive device biomimicking the unique features of the Torrey pine to harvest atmospheric moisture, a potential solution to fresh-water scarcity.

Tianshi did most of her research from her garage lab with duct tape, LEGOs, cardboard boxes, humidifier and a $20 microscope. She and her brother founded the organization Clearwater Innovation (clearwaterinnovation.org), which encourages students to solve environmental problems from home labs. Through workshops, summer camps, blogs, and videos, they feature young inventors who use canola oil to simulate oil spills and a spray bottle from the Dollar Store when a micropipette was unaffordable. She believes kids can solve the world’s problems through their originality and sheer willpower.

“We are proud to announce the 2020 Davidson Fellows Scholarship recipients and applaud them for their hard work and achievement in their fields of study,” said Bob Davidson, founder of the Davidson Institute. “By being awarded this recognition, these students have shown immense skill and work ethic, and they should be commended as they continue their educational and research journeys while continuing to work to solve some of the world’s most vexing problems.”

The 2020 Davidson Fellows were honored during a digital reception on Sept. 30.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship program offers $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 college scholarships to students 18 or younger, who have completed significant projects that have the potential to benefit society in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature and music. The Davidson Fellows Scholarship has provided more than $8.2 million in scholarship funds to 366 students since its inception in 2001, and has been named one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships by U.S. News & World Report. It is a program of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Reno, Nev. that supports profoundly gifted youth.

For more information, visit https://www.davidsongifted.org/fellows-scholarship