Si-Yi Ryan Lee and Matthew Miller do not know each other, but they have a lot in common.

Both live in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Lee is from Charlotte, and Miller from Elon. And, both were sitting in their rooms the night when they were notified as being finalists of the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search competition.

“My mom handed me the phone, and I guess I was on speaker phone in front of 15 people,” Miller said. “They were laughing because I sounded so overwhelmed I guess.”

Lee was in his dorm room at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

“I’m really honored,” he said. “I’m pretty happy about it.”

Only 40 high school seniors in the U.S. were selected as finalists for this prestigious pre-college science competition.

Intel Science Talent Search Public Day 2011 is set for March 13 at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. The finalists will meet between March 10 and March 15 to compete for $630,000 in awards. The top winner receives $100,000 from the Intel Foundation.

Lee participated in the Howard Hughes Undergraduate Program at Duke University last summer where he conducted research to isolate proteins in William Parker’s lab. The title of his research project is “Random occurrence of Amphiphilic A-Helical Potential Solves the Protein Evolution Quandry.”

“The research shows that the evolution of proteins at the initial stages of folding is not constrained by natural selection,” Lee said. “It makes evolution easier.”

Lee became interested in science through Science Olympiad, which he started participating in the sixth grade. Now, he’s the senior captain for NCSSM’s Science Olympiad team.

Miller, a senior at Western Alamance High School, attended the White House Science Fair in October and had a chance to meet President Barack Obama. Read previous coverage from his experience.

Miller’s project, “The Impact of Vortex Generators on Wind Turbine Efficiency and Sound Output” was inspired by an article Miller’s father read in a Duke University magazine about new research that shows the bumps on a whale’s tale improves its efficiency.

Miller and his brother built a wind tunnel in the family’s garage to test out bumps on the blades of wind turbines. Miller added a row of bumps along the edge of medium-sized wind turbine.

“What the bumps do is create a vortex, a spiral flow, along the blade that keeps the air attached to the blade longer,” he said. “The longer you can keep air attached, the more lift you create.”

While the amount of decibels is the same, the sound produced is more appealing to the ear.

Lee and Miller, the only two finalists from North Carolina, will have the opportunity to finally meet in Washington D.C.

The Intel Science Talent Search 2011 finalists come from 15 states and represent 39 schools. Approximately 1,744 entries were received this year from which 300 semifinalists were selected last month.

For the first time ever, California has surpassed New York as the state with the highest number of finalists in the competition. California has 11. New York has seven, followed by Texas with three.

See the Event Flyer for more details on next month’s finals.

Get the latest news alerts: Follow LTW at Twitter.