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Giving thanks to our volunteers and judges

By Gayle Kansagor

We are grateful to volunteers and our judges, without whom the Society's programs would not be possible.
We are grateful to our dedicated volunteers and judges, without whom the Society's programs would not be possible. Photo courtesy of the Society for Science

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday this week, this one may feel particularly poignant. Many of us will take a moment to consider the loved ones and things for which we are grateful. In the last few years, where so much has been lost, we are thankful for the scientists without whom vaccines would not have been made possible and the courageous teachers and administrators who have continued to educate our nation’s youth through a pandemic.  

At the Society for Science, we would not be able to do the work that we do without the incredible help we get from our dedicated group of volunteers and judges, who support our science competitions and beyond. These individuals are committed to the Society’s mission and to supporting students throughout their STEM journeys. We are exceptionally thankful for all they do. We recently asked some of our volunteers, some who have served and supported our programs for decades, what they were thankful for when they thought about their important role in our community. Here is what they shared:

“I am grateful for every person in my STEM community who embraces curiosity in our natural world, both within themselves and fosters it in others. I appreciate spaces where questioning the status quo is the status quo — perhaps it is why I love volunteering for the Society. They create both in-person and online experiences where doing science is celebrated and allows you to see and feel that science is for everyone.” – Milena Acosta, ISEF volunteer

On those rare days when I wonder how the heck I am going to be able to do this work for a few more years, it only takes a few minutes for me to recall all the students I’ve had the privilege to support and the amazing things they have done already early in their careers and lives. I revel in the conversations we have now when they tell me all about what they’re doing and how important a research challenge was for them. I recall all the tireless, selfless educators who give everything they’ve got to their students so they can be successful. I recall all the students and educators with whom I have crossed paths on their journeys who have reconnected with me later and thanked me for being there to support them, encourage them, and connect them with people and resources that helped propel them forward to amazing successes.” Karen Kinsman, ISEF Volunteer

“I am grateful to give back to programs that gave me the opportunity to explore big questions, gain confidence in myself, and connect to the global community of science and discovery. It is so important that young people continue to see the change they can make in the world for good.” Chris Mucha, ISEF volunteer

“There is an old saying that a student is only as good as his or her teacher. Though this may be true, it’s limiting. It is a collective effort. A student is only as good as his or her teacher, but a teacher can only teach a student who is passionate and willing to learn. This passion and willingness to learn comes from everywhere – parents, friends, media and countless more. I’m grateful for the dedication everyone in our community puts in, emphasizing student education and STEM. Students are our future, and how that future turns out is directly influenced by everyone and everything in all these students’ lives.” – Prithwis Mukhopadhyay, Broadcom MASTERS judge

“As a scientist, being part of training doctoral and medical students is already immensely gratifying, but over the last 20 years I’ve been able to add to my “day job” by working with the Regeneron STS applicants and Broadcom MASTERS students. Seeing the tremendous potential that these students have to keep moving STEM knowledge forward is the best booster shot I could have. Go Broadcom MASTERS!” – Susan Mulroney, Broadcom MASTERS judge/Regeneron STS evaluator

If you or someone you know is interested in judging or volunteering for Society for Science programs, please email For those who are especially interested in volunteering or judging for Regeneron ISEF please email We look forward to hearing from you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Aparna Paul