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Thermo Fisher JIC finalists star at the Public Exhibition of Projects

By Kevin Easterly

Elizabeth Shen stands at her project poster, speaking with two adults about her work.
Thermo Fisher JIC finalists presented their research at the Public Exhibition of Projects. Courtesy of Jessica Yurinko/Society for Science

Finals week of the inaugural Thermo Fisher Junior Innovators Challenge is finally here! Thirty of the top middle school STEM innovators have gathered from across the country in Washington, D.C. for a week of presenting their projects to scientific experts, taking part in team-based challenges and, most importantly, making new friends and having fun. One highlight of the week so far has been the Public Exhibition of Projects, in which all thirty finalists presented their original research to over 100 visitors who attended the event. Follow this link to visit the Virtual Public Exhibition of Projects to learn about all the finalists’ research or read on to see what a few members of this year’s class had to say.   

Advait Badrish
Redmond Middle School (Redmond, WA)

Motivated by the reality that heart disease is both a prevalent issue worldwide, while also being difficult to detect and diagnose, Advait developed a smartphone app that uses machine learning to detect irregularities in users’ heartbeats. On his experience as a Thermo Fisher JIC finalist, Advait says, “It’s honestly been an amazing experience. Now, I’m really excited for the team challenges because they’re a great way to meet new people, make friends and have fun.”

Advait Badrish standing at his project poster
Advait Badrish with his project poster Courtesy of Jessica Yurinko/Society for Science

Colin Beckner
Swanson Middle School (Arlington, VA)

“My project centered on the design of an airplane’s wingtip,” explains Colin. “The design of a wingtip can dramatically lower the carbon emissions of an airplane, which can help make the industry more sustainable.” On being named a Thermo Fisher JIC finalist, Colin says it feels good because he spent a long time working on his project and it’s meaningful to be able share his work on this stage. His advice for other students beginning their own research? “Keep trying. Even if you hit a problem, you should always persevere and try to find a way around it.”

Colin Beckner standing at his project poster
Colin Beckner with his project poster Courtesy of Jessica Yurinko/Society for Science

Pranavi Chatrathi
Pioneer Heritage Middle School (Frisco, TX)

Pranavi’s research, in which she used gaming software to model the viability of external side airbags in cars, was inspired by some family history: “Before I was born, my parents were in a car crash and I have heard that story throughout my entire life. Once I had a chance to participate in science fair, I knew that was the issue I wanted to research.” Pranavi has also been enjoying the start of finals week: “Though the process to get here is long, the end result is honestly amazing. I’m most excited for the challenges. I think working with my team is going to be really cool—so go Green Team!”

Pranavi Chatrathi standing at her project poster
Pranavi Chatrathi with her project poster Courtesy of Jessica Yurinko/Society for Science

Veronica Howard
Stanford Online High School (Redwood City, CA)

For her project, Veronica investigated the levels of pesticide residue found on organic versus conventional produce. She found that both types of produce had roughly the same amounts of pesticides but, fortunately, simply washing them with water greatly reduced the residues. Veronica offers this excellent advice for anyone interested in starting their own research: “I would say just go for it! Get inspired, read a lot of articles on science websites and enroll in science fairs. If you have an idea, try to test it out. Try to do an experiment because that can be a great learning process.”

Veronica Howard standing at her project poster
Veronica Howard with her project poster Courtesy of Jessica Yurinko/Society for Science

Amritha Praveen
Aptakisic Junior High School (Buffalo Grove, IL)

A musician herself, Amritha researched the potential of music therapy, developing a recommendation model based on objective physical measures such as a listener’s heartrate. But that’s not all. “Although my project is centered around mental health,” says Amritha, “I also see it being used by composers as they try to compose specific music that can elicit certain emotions from their listeners.” She is also proud to be a Thermo Fisher JIC finalist: “It builds my self-confidence and validates that my work is important and can be used in the real world.”

Amritha Praveen standing at her project poster
Amritha Praveen with her project poster Courtesy of Jessica Yurinko/Society for Science

Elizabeth Shen
Stoller Middle School (Portland, OR)

After reading about an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Elizabeth chose to research water diffusivity as a means to mitigate the damage of future spills. She both determined a low-cost method to measure water diffusivity and designed a geometric shape that can speed up diffusion. On what she’s most looking forward to during finals week, Elizabeth says: “I’m excited to build new connections and have fun at the challenges.”

Elizabeth Shen standing at her project poster
Elizabeth Shen with her project poster Courtesy of Jessica Yurinko/Society for Science

Learn more about all the finalists here and stay tuned to see who wins the top awards on November 1.