By studying clouds, a 17-year-old science whiz has landed his name in the stars.
Troy High School senior Peter Pawlowski of Fullerton won fourth place Tuesday in the Intel Science Talent Search, a prestigious pre-college science contest.
"It's awesome. I was very surprised," Peter said. "It was a great honor just to be among the top 40."
For his efforts divining the structure of a chemical compound that helps form clouds and smog, Peter was awarded a $25,000 college scholarship.
Each of the 40 finalists will have an asteroid named in his or her honor, contest organizers said.
The young scientists received a certificate bearing the coordinates of his or her namesake.
Peter's mother, Anna, said his project was so complex that she and her husband "couldn't help him.... After he explained [the project] six times, then I began to understand," she said, laughing.
About 1,600 students applied to enter the contest.
The final 40 were in Washington, D.C., last week for final judging. The contestants toured the White House and met the vice president.
The contest, which for most of its 62-year-history was sponsored by Westinghouse, has hundreds of distinguished alumni, including five Nobel laureates, said Intel spokesman Mark Pettinger.
The other finalist from California was Michelle Rengarajan of Pasadena, who earned a $5,000 scholarship.
The $100,000 first prize went to Jamie Rubin, 16, of Florida.