By Amanda H. Cronin
The first image that may come to mind when you hear the words “science fair” is a lopsided, paper maché, volcano erupting “lava.” You know, the classic baking powder and vinegar experiment. But what is really going on at these science fairs is far more impressive and innovative.
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, May 11-16. Horace Greeley High School Senior Alex Kaufman was among some 1,600 high school students from around the country participating in the fair for the ultimate prize: a scholarship worth $75,000.
ISEF, the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, provides a framework for aspiring young researchers, like Alex, to showcase their independent research and compete for more than $4 million in awards. Millions of students worldwide start out competing in local and school-sponsored science fairs, and if selected, go head-to-head in the final event with peers from over 70 countries, regions and territories. At a local fair in March, Alex was named one of the top ten researchers in Westchester and Putnam counties, which qualified him to advance to the final round.
Alex is part of Horace Greeley’s Science Research program, a three-year, application-based science course that allows students to independently explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) topics of their own choosing, be it climate change, cancer research or molecular biology.
Science teacher Trudy Gessler leads many of the classes for the program. “We have many talented and passionate students in Science Research,” said Dr. Gessler. “Their research and experiments are all conducted under the supervision of a research scientist/mentor, sometimes in a research lab and sometimes right here on campus.”
Alex’s interest is in the area of immunology. His project focuses on the Hepatitis B virus and constructing a special type of viral clone to function exactly like Hepatitis B, except that it causes cells to fluoresce upon infection. Alex conducted his research in the Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease at The Rockefeller University in New York City.
Alex’s story is not the only success story in the program. This past year, 12 students received awards for their projects at various fairs and competitions. Junior Riya Verma’s poster was given 1st place in the Category of Medicine and Health at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. “I have always been interested in applications of computer science in medicine, and Science Research has given me an opportunity to pursue it,” said Riya.
Anubhav Guha’s award-winning project took him to the White House. Anubhav’s research deals with extending the lifetime of dye molecules. For his research Anubhav placed as a finalist in the Intel competition and semi-finalist in the Siemens competition. He even got to shake hands with President Obama!
“I’ve always been interested in science– its really satisfying and neat to be able to fully understand a topic, or to be able to find something completely new that no one else has ever found,” said Anubhav.
Mrs. Patricia Donovan heads up Greeley’s Science department. “Science education is more important today than it has ever been. It is important to have a good science education to be competitive in today’s world. As global citizens, we all need to understand how the elements of our surroundings function so that we can make sense of the information made available to us.”
As a fellow Greeley student and new Science Researcher, I asked Alex for some advice. “You have been provided an incredible opportunity. You may come out of this research experience knowing that you want to be a scientist for the rest of your life. You could also come out of it knowing that you never want to go near a pipette again! So go into this excited about what you will learn about your field and what you will learn about yourself. There are so many fascinating fields, so search long and hard for something that absolutely captivates you– it’s definitely out there!”
Alex, Riya, and Anubhav are truly inspirational. There’s no doubt that these science research students are some of the brightest “cells” in our student body. Their findings could potentially help people in meaningful ways and influence current scientific practices. Seeing their accomplishments makes me excited to hone in on my own science topic and gain experience through interacting with professionals in the field.
Science can be very daunting and complex. But it is fascinating and extremely important for our understanding of the world and how it works. It’s thrilling to know that right here at Greeley we have some of the best and the brightest.
To find out more about ISEF and the Siemens Competition visit: https://student.societyforscience.org/intel-isef and http://www.siemens-foundation.org/en/competition.htm
Amanda H. Cronin is a freshman at Horace Greeley High School. She loves the six Fs: Food, Fashion, Football (Soccer), Friends, Family and Felines.