10-Year-Old Girl Discovers New Molecule In Science Class

Clara Lazen is not your typical fifth-grader. The Kansas City, Missouri student was tackling an assignment in science class manipulating molecular models when she made an accidental scientific breakthrough. Armed with some basic instruction on the formation and structure of molecules, Clara ended up combining a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon atoms to create a molecule her chemistry teacher, Kenneth Boehr, had never seen before.

After the exercise, Clara wanted to know if the molecule she’d modeled existed in real life. Boehr got in touch with a friend, Robert Zoellner, who also happens to be a computational chemist, to see if he could offer any insight. Zoellner couldn’t tell at a glance whether the molecule was real, so he did a little research and found that Clara’s molecular formula is a new structural arrangement for the chemical nitroglycerin.

Zoellner has named the new molecule tetranitratoxycarbon, and is publishing a paper detailing his research – with Clara and Mr. Boehr both listed as co-authors. There are still many questions left to be answered: no one knows exactly what the molecule’s properties might be if synthesized in a lab. Zoellner theorizes that, due to its similarity to nitroglycerin, it might have the potential to store energy, or it might be combustible. It’s not even clear, at present, whether it would be possible to create the molecule at all.

While more research is currently being done to find out more about Clara’s molecule, the future looks bright for this 10-year-old scientist. As Boehr stated in an interview with Kansas City’s local Fox affiliate, scientific fields are still highly male-dominated, and findings like Clara’s can make all the difference for girls and young women hoping to break into the field.

You can see Clara’s molecule and listen to her talk about her creative process in assembling it in this local news clip.


Related Stories:

All-Girl Schools Are Not A Silver Bullet To Getting More Women In Science & Engineering

Helping Women Scientists Balance Family And Research

Best Way To Learn: Teacher Tells You Or You Discover For Yourself?


Photo credit: p_a_h

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Ken W.
Ken W.3 years ago

Just when I was sure that I new it all !!

ii q.
g d c.3 years ago


Terry Vanderbush
Terry V.3 years ago

Clara, thank you. Hope for our future.
United we stand........................

Valerie B.

Too cool

Michael Manosalvas

I am glad when young children outsmart adults. Keeps our superiors humble.

Jerry t.
Jerold t.3 years ago

I'm glad it wasn't me, I'd have been accused of super gluing it all together.

Malgorzata Zmuda
Malgorzata Zmuda3 years ago

może trzeba wpuścić do skostniałej nauki więcej świeżego powietrza np. dzieci

Sarah M.
Sarah M.3 years ago


New G.
New G.3 years ago

Thank you for the news.

JACarlton Author
jill c.3 years ago

Oh christ, dont' let FOX near her! they'll have her believing science is wrong and abortion is up to the church!