Regeneron ISEF 2024: An electrifying opening night in Tinseltown - Society for Science Skip to content

Regeneron ISEF 2024: An electrifying opening night in Tinseltown

By Kevin Easterly

The Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2024 is here! Back in Los Angeles for the first time since 2017, Regeneron ISEF officially kicked off on May 13 with an Opening Ceremony for the ages. Nearly 1,700 finalists were present for the festivities, along with their delegations from all 67 countries, regions and territories represented at this year’s fair. The atmosphere was nothing short of electric.

Photo of DJ Kara

The evening kicked off with DJ Kara spinning upbeat tunes, while the hype built to stratospheric levels as finalists and guests entered the hall.

Barb Baker presenting from the ISEF stage

Barb Baker, the night’s emcee, got the evening started with a warm welcome to this year’s finalists—the world’s brightest collection of young scientists and engineers.

Maya Ajmera presenting on the ISEF stage

Soon after, Barb introduced Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science and Executive Publisher of Science News, who set the stage for what’s sure to be an unforgettable week.

“Science is a team sport. The students around you today might one day be your collaborators, business partners and lifelong friends. This week I encourage you to get to know someone from a different country and someone with research in a different field.” – Maya Ajmera

Then, Regeneron co-Founder, Board co-Chair, President and Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos addressed the finalists to share his experiences as a former student competing in Society competitions, some lessons learned during his career as one of the most successful drug discoverers in biopharma history, as well as some words of insight and inspiration.

“Tonight, as we gather at what I truly hope and believe could be a defining point in your scientific journeys, remember: Do not merely inherit the future—go forth boldly and create it.” – George Yancopoulos

Patrick Hsu, Silvana Konermann and Maya Ajmera on the ISEF stage

Maya then returned to the stage to facilitate an intimate fireside chat with Patrick Hsu (ISEF 2008) and Silvana Konermann (ISEF 2006). Patrick is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at UC Berkeley, and Silvana is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford. Together, they are Co-Founders and Core Investigators at the Arc Institute, a nonprofit research organization headquartered in Palo Alto, California. During their conversation, they shared motivating messages about following one’s passion and the power of collaboration in the face of great challenges.

“Don’t give up. It’s a marathon—just keep pushing. Try to learn to think long term and work on the most important problems. If you keep pushing, you stay at it and you bring in the right people around you, you’re going to unlock the secrets of nature.”  —Patrick Hsu

“If you’re trying to solve a big problem, there’s only so much that you might know. But there are other people out there that might look at the problem in a different way, and who have different tools than you. You can solve big problems, but you don’t have to do it alone.” —Silvana Konermann

Kevin Easterly interviewing a Regeneron ISEF finalist

Then, in a fun video, Kevin Easterly of the Society’s communications team explored the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center on a mission to meet as many finalists as possible. From shouting out where everyone is from, to learning which scientists they find most inspiring, to asking silly questions (i.e. what animal would you most want to be?)—it was a sneak peek of what’s sure to be an energetic week.

Gideon Yu, Afton Vechery and Maya Ajmera on the ISEF stage

In a second riveting fireside chat, Maya returned to speak with Afton Vechery and Gideon Yu. Afton (ISEF 2005, STS 2007) is the Co-Founder & CEO of Women’s Health Platform and Former Co-Founder & CEO of Modern Fertility. Gideon (ISEF 1989) is Co-Owner of the San Francisco 49ers and Former CFO of Facebook and YouTube. Additionally, they both serve on the Society’s Board of Trustees. During their conversation, they shared the story of their journeys—from Regeneron ISEF to their incredibly successful and interesting career paths—as well as messages of motivation and congratulations for the finalists.

“Just getting here is the win—that is fabulous. Get to know some of your fellow finalists! Look around and learn a thing or two. There are so many great things to learn here but, at the very least, savor this moment.” — Gideon Yu

“My first time at ISEF, I remember thinking that I had found my people. I felt totally at home talking with people who were just as excited about science as I was. Just look around. Realize that every single person here wants to meet you. Be open, take it all in and have so much fun.” — Afton Vechery

In the final video of the night, we rolled out the blue carpet for this year’s finalists at the popular Pin Exchange, capturing the excitement and glamour of Regeneron ISEF 2024. We are in Tinseltown, after all, and what stars could shine more brilliantly than the brightest young innovators in the world?

Follow the Society blog for more updates throughout the week and watch the Grand Awards Ceremony livestream on Friday, May 17 at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Kevin Easterly