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Why I volunteer at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

In 2012, judge and alumnus Scott Duke Kominers (right) poses with Intel ISEF alumni Sara Volz (left) and Jonah Kallenbach (middle). Photo courtesy of Ellen Dickstein Kominers.

By Scott Duke Kominers

  • Intel ISEF 2005, Intel STS 2005
  • MBA Class of 1960 Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
  • Faculty Affiliate: Harvard Department of Economics and Harvard Center of Mathematical Sciences and Applications
  • Co-chair: Mathematics Grand Awards Judging, Intel ISEF

My Intel ISEF project back in 2005 was in quadratic form representation theory — and a world expert in the field was on one of the judging panels.

Before judging started in earnest, he dropped by just to tell me how excited he was that I was studying quadratic forms. We had a high-bandwidth conversation about recent developments in the field. It was electrifying. This judge treated me like a colleague. I was in high school — he was tenured faculty at a top research university — yet he recognized me as a mathematician.

Judge after judge engaged me as a scholar, learning about my work and simultaneously welcoming me into the mathematics community. What a gift.

I signed up to be an Intel ISEF judge as soon as I became eligible so that I could give that same gift to the next generation of scholars. I judge at Intel ISEF every year I can and recruit my friends and colleagues as judges too.

Judging is a great way to give back. It lets you be part of the community of research competitions — and of student science more generally.

I’ve had the honor of serving on judging panels alongside people who judged me back in 2005. And many of the students I’ve met in my years as a judge have stayed in touch, reaching out to me for course and career advice. I’m sure some of them will be judging alongside me one day.

Intel ISEF 2018 | May 11–18 in Pittsburgh

E-mail: isefvolunteer@societyforscience.org

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