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Society Alumni Help Others Succeed with Science

Shiv Gaglani (Intel ISEF 2004-2006) wished that, before he had participated the first time, he had been able to speak with someone who had lived through the Intel ISEF experience. That conversation may have helped him take even fuller advantage of all of the opportunities available to him and his fellow young scientists. This thought grew into the idea to write a book with the help of four other Society alumni that includes advice and inspiration for students hoping to excel at high school research.  The book, Success with Science: The Winner’s Guide to High School Research, was published in January 2011.

The five co-authors, who also include Maria Elena “Ellen” De Obaldia (Intel ISEF 2002, 2003), Scott Duke Kominers (Intel ISEF 2005), Dayan “Jack” Li (Intel ISEF 2007), and Carol Y. Suh (Intel STS 2007; Intel ISEF 2005, 2006, 2007), took time out of their busy study and research schedules at Harvard University to complete the project.  “It was definitely worth it,” Shiv says, because “we are very passionate about what we are doing.”

Jack says that science fairs helped him to discover his interest in research. “I investigated the modulation of gene expression in cancer angiogenesis. To me, the dependence of tumor cells on their surrounding blood vessel network for nutrient and metastasis was fascinating,” he says. “I really wanted to understand more about the process.”

Carol was also inspired by science fairs, saying they were one of the best things about high school. She says, “Because participating in science fairs was so memorable and rewarding for me, I wanted others to have an easier time going through the process instead of trying to search for all the tips on their own.”  Scott, who has volunteered at the Excellence in Education Research Science Institute and with his Intel ISEF-affiliated fair, had similar motivations for co-authoring the book, saying, “I have tried to give back to the science community by helping the next generation of students gain access to research.”

In order to do this, the authors compiled tips and resources, as well as testimonies from more than 50 other successful student scientists. “The book is full of their quotes that are meant to encourage students to do research as well as guide them on how to get involved,” Shiv says. The authors also worked with former Society Board Chair and Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach, who wrote the foreword, and they quoted Society alumnus Homer Hickam, who is best known for writing the book on which the film October Sky is based on.

Jack hopes students will learn to “be proactive in taking advantage of the resources and opportunities outside the classroom. Sometimes taking the initiative to contact a research scientist for an opportunity to work in a lab or being part of a meaningful public service project leads you to interesting and fruitful paths.”

Shiv also thinks it is important to emphasize that, “the skills and qualities that you develop from doing research in science really carry forward to any career you choose.” But, most importantly, he hopes readers realize that anyone can be a scientist, “that there are so many other students who can do this and that not all of them are necessarily geniuses. They’re normal students who found a question that really excited them and decided to go for it.”

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