Li Boynton, a high school senior admitted early to the Yale College class of 2014, had Michelle Obama’s sense of style in mind when she went shopping Tuesday evening.
After all, the Houston native will be sitting beside the first lady at tonight’s State of the Union address. Boynton, who was one of three winners of the 2009 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, said Tuesday night she did not know why the White House selected her, but she guessed that President Barack Obama may use her to represent a topic he is going to address in his speech.
“I think he’s going to say something about education, science and the environment, and I fit all of those categories,” Boynton said.
A receptionist at the White House said no one was available for comment, and a representative of Intel could not be reached for comment.
Boynton found out about the honor last week during an art class. An Intel spokesman had previously let her know they were trying to arrange something with the White House, so when she received a voicemail in class, she had a suspicion she knew who it was.
Boynton won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her research on how bioluminescent bacteria can detect water contaminants. Instead of paying $20,000 for expensive equipment that would measure the amount of light bioluminescent bacteria emits, she said, she made her own device — “it’s not as legit as it sounds,” she stressed — at a cost of only about $1,000.
Even though Boynton was admitted early to Yale, she is not yet sure if she will matriculate. She said Yale is her first choice and she plans to attend Bulldog Days, but she is also applying to other schools to see where she gets the most financial aid.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Tuesday that Boynton’s selection to attend Obama’s speech is “great.”
“It surely will be a wonderful experience for her,” Brenzel said.
Boynton said she did not yet know her full itinerary, only that she is meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She hopes, though, to have the chance to eat dinner with the Obamas and meet their pet Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, she said.
Still in Houston when she was interviewed Tuesday night, Boynton said she and her mother will fly to Washington early Wednesday morning.
In preparation, Boynton and her mother did some last-minute shopping Tuesday night. They settled on a pink shirt with ruffles and a black pencil skirt, both from J. Crew — a brand Michelle Obama is known to wear.
President Obama will address Boynton and the nation at 9 p.m. tonight.