For many, a typical family vacation may include a trip to the beach or an amusement park, but for the Dorminy family, competing in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is a family tradition.
John (STS 2009; ISEF 2006-2009), Daniel (ISEF 2010, 2012, 2013), Thomas (ISEF 2017), Susie (ISEF 2018-2019), Becky (ISEF 2019-2021; BCM 2015) and Jonathan (ISEF 2022; BCM 2020-2021) (yes, that is six siblings) have all competed in ISEF for a combined total of 14 years! The family’s love of science fair doesn’t stop with ISEF: several of them have also competed in our middle school competition, the Broadcom MASTERS, as well as the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) for high school seniors. Five of the Dorminy siblings are no longer eligible to compete in Society for Science programs, but John, Becky and Susie are still finding ways to be involved in science fair and cheer on their youngest brother, Jonathan who competed in ISEF in Atlanta this year.
While John participated as a judge for finalists competing virtually, we caught up with Becky after she shared her science fair experiences and wisdom at an in-person Society for Science alumni symposium during competition week.
Did your siblings inspire you to compete in ISEF?
“We grew up watching them at all the competitions, it was a lot of fun to watch them compete. So, it did inspire me to want to be like them one day and have a project like my older sibling. And eventually I made it to ISEF and got to do everything they got to do, and it was really incredible.”
Do you think this shared experience has brought you and your siblings closer together?
“Every time one of us makes it to ISEF, every sibling says ‘Yay! You made it! I’m so proud, that’s my little sister or brother!’ It’s great and a lot of fun. Each of us have gotten to be in the spotlight. We also talk to each other about our projects; that’s brought us closer together. We all want to solve problems and we all like thinking creatively, so it’s fun to talk about more academic things with them. We’re kind of nerds.”
How exciting is it for all of you to be involved in ISEF in different ways now?
“It’s incredible to think I’m this old and am now invited to participate on ISEF panels. I know my older brother has worked really hard to get to the place he is in his career, but he also gets to share that with younger people in the way judges I had at ISEF shared their experiences and knowledge with me. Now, my little brother gets to have that experience with the judges. It’s mind-blowing.”
Becky competed in ISEF for three years, with three different projects in three different subjects. She shared that while her ISEF experience felt a little overwhelming at first, she was able to meet so many new people from all over the world who became friends she stays in touch with today. She even found judging interesting and more in-depth than a typical science fair. “It was a great experience overall.” After heading to college, she wanted to give back to the science fair community by volunteering and facilitating connections like those she gained from her time in ISEF. Becky studies accounting at Clemson University.
Jonathan, the youngest of the Dorminy siblings hopes to continue competing in ISEF and stay involved in the program once he’s no longer eligible to compete. His 2022 ISEF project studied radio communications, which is his favorite subject.
Are you an alumni interested in staying involved in the Society for Science’s programs? You can learn more about the alumni community and join the Society Alumni Network here.