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Dance, music and science – three universal languages

By Gayle Kansagor

Virtual Regeneron ISEF 2021 launched with a burst of energy as finalists from around the world showed off their dance skills via videos they sent in to the Society, celebrating the global competition and their love of science. All in attendance virtually Danced Around the World to places like American Samoa, China, Finland, Ukraine, South Korea and the United States.

The musical theme of the evening carried through with a special keynote speaker — 1963 ISEF alum, theoretical physicist and best-selling author Michio Kaku. He shared his thoughts on how science and music are very much connected:

“What is physics?”
“Physics is the harmonies you can make on vibrating strings.”

“What is chemistry?”
“Chemistry is the melodies you can play when these strings bump into each other.”

“What is the universe?”
“The universe is a symphony of strings.”

“What is the mind of God that Albert Einstein spent 30 years of his life chasing after?”
“The mind of God is cosmic music — cosmic music resonating through hyperspace.”

Michio, one of the most accomplished science communicators of our day, told the finalists how the competition changed his life and would for them too. “At this science fair, we’re talking about some of the finest, most industrious, most innovative and imaginative people of your generation.” Michio added, “Remember, you are part of the vanguard. You are the people who will change all of society and human history.”

The ISEF opening ceremony continued with encouraging words from Society for Science President and CEO, Maya Ajmera. “Even with the enormous hardships that we have endured globally, I am so inspired by the breakthroughs we have seen this year related to COVID-19, but I am even more reassured by what I am seeing from our student scientists and engineers,” Maya said. “You [this year’s ISEF finalists] looked at your communities – whether you live in Cairo or Bangkok, New York City or Phoenix, Arizona – you saw a problem and wanted to find a solution,” said Maya.

Regeneron President and Chief Scientific Officer, George Yancopoulos, echoed Maya’s words. “Surviving this devastating pandemic, the call for scientific talent has never been more compelling. Even before the events of the last 18 months, I’ve always believed that science is the key to unlocking the challenges facing humanity.” He added, “This is where we find the science heroes of the future who will lead humanity’s fight against so many global threats — from pandemics to climate change — right here at Regeneron ISEF.”

All three speakers urged the finalists to keep innovating and engaging in scientific research. We are excited that despite weighty challenges, this is our biggest ISEF yet, with 1,435 individual and team projects combined – the most projects in the history of the fair. This year, there are 1,833 finalists from 64 countries, regions and territories. Of those finalists, 50.5% are male, 48.4% are female, 0.3% are nonbinary and 0.8% preferred not to answer.

Learn more about the finalists’ research in the Finalist Hall, where attendees are invited to check out each finalist’s booth, which includes a video, slide presentation and quad chart, providing an in-depth overview of their research. Explore all 21 categories, and click on each finalist’s name to send them a message with a question or comment. Attendees can also visit the College Fair, featuring nearly 90 colleges and universities and the STEM Experiential Hall, where you can find immersive STEM experiences and visit booths from the World Science Festival, Zooniverse and the Congressional App Challenge. Head to the STEM Career Hall to learn more about the Society’s partners and potential STEM career paths.

Mark your calendars for the upcoming ceremonies at the end of this week, where more than $5 million in awards will be distributed. The Special Award Organization Ceremony this Thursday evening features awards from government agencies, associations and a range of companies. Tune in to the Grand Awards Ceremony, scheduled for Friday morning, where the top $75,000 George Yancopoulos Award winner will be named!

If you missed the Opening Ceremony and want to tune into all of the exciting programming to come the rest of this week, you can watch it on-demand by visiting the auditorium at Regeneron ISEF. The programming will also be available on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitch!

Aparna Paul