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Jim Stevens has served on the Intel ISEF Scientific Review Committee (SRC) since 1981, so when he recently retired from the committee, he was leaving behind a legacy of 30 years at the Intel ISEF. “I watched this whole thing evolve,” he says.
Jim saw an international event grow from a handful of countries to more than 60 countries, regions, and territories, and has seen a lot of interesting and surprising projects over the years. He remembers many students who thought outside of the box in order to conquer important scientific problems, from a finalist who used tampons to collect fluids in cows' noses for analysis to a student who invented a special bed that had to be creatively fit into his science fair booth (the bed was placed upright to meet the space restrictions).
“Jim is a wealth of knowledge and experience and was a tremendous asset to the committee, but especially as a mentor to me when I joined the SRC,” said Paula D. Johnson, a member of the SRC. “One of the special qualities about Jim is his dedication to the students – he would go above and beyond to research an issue or question to be certain that we were making the best decisions and recommendations possible. Jim has a wonderful sense of humor and his ability to lighten a moment with a goofy face, silly hat, or joke will always be remembered.”
“Dr. James Stevens has been an outstanding member of the Scientific Review Committee for over thirty years,” said Nancy Aiello, SRC Chair. “His extensive knowledge and personal experience in veterinary medicine and microbiology have been invaluable and he has had a significant impact on the development and refinement of the Intel ISEF Rules and Guidelines. Jim is a dedicated educator who truly cares about students and is committed to promoting science fairs and to providing an opportunity for students of all ages to experience the excitement of scientific inquiry. Jim’s presence on the SRC will be truly missed, but I know that, in the future, we will always be able to count on his help and advice. For this I am most grateful.”
Jim’s service was celebrated at a dinner in Los Angeles before the Intel ISEF 2011 where SSP President Elizabeth Marincola spoke on his achievements and contributions to the science fair community. While he may be retired from the Intel ISEF SRC, he is still active with his local fair and busy as an advisory member of the Colorado State Fair. "I've been busy,” Jim says, adding that while it wasn’t always easy to take time from teaching and his own research as a veterinarian and professor at the University of Colorado, he found volunteering for science fairs very rewarding. He says he is not only helping future scientists, he’s helping all the participants to be better, more knowledgeable citizens.
That is why he encourages young scientists to volunteer at local schools and to get involved in the community, letting the public know about the important scientific work scientists are doing and how it can help society. "That's what science needs to do… improve communication… improve the scientific literacy of the world,” he says. "We need more spokesmen for science."
Paul Strode is a biology teacher at Fairview High School in Boulder, CO.