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David Letterman-style top ten lists, stickers and counterintuitive advice made for a lively visit to the National Institutes of Health during the Intel Science Talent Search finalists’ week in Washington, D.C. in March.
"I started as a young kid with a chemistry set, blowing stuff up," said NIH Director Francis Collins. He discussed the institute's history and goals.
Francis told the finalists not to close their horizons off too early in their science careers, but to leave themselves open to going off in different directions or fields.
"I didn't pay attention to what was happening in the world of science," he said. He encouraged the finalists to pursue a major in one field and participate in research in another. This will provide them with breadth and depth in different areas.
Francis Collins previously worked on the Human Genome Project, which provides a full mapping of human genomes. "I didn't expect at all to end up in this position," he told the finalists.
Francis' other advice included:
One group of finalists met with Ben Busby, the Genomics Outreach Coordinator at National Center for Biotechnology Information. He works in the Computational Biology Branch of NIH.
Ben encouraged the finalists to participate in hackathons, where people try to code and hack a program or app together in a short timeframe, "because they're fun!"
He described big data, metadata, and electronic health records, passing out stickers for those who offered correct guesses.
Lawrence Tabak, Principal Deputy Director of NIH, gave his rendition of the Late Show with David Letterman's Top Ten.
For some students, science projects can be a one-time endeavor—they pick a topic to study in-depth and then move on to other scientific subjects that intrigue them.
Engaging in science research can impart a variety of skills—problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and effective communication, to name a few.
Society alumni gathered at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC last month to tune into a vibrant panel of Science Talent Search (STS) alumni.