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Since 1901, the Nobel Prizes have been presented to Laureates in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature on Dec. 10, the death anniversary of Swedish polymath, Alfred Nobel. These individuals have made tremendous strides in their areas of expertise and have enlightened the next generation with their bodies of work. The Society is invited each year to name three International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) winners to represent the US at the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS), giving students access to the Nobel activities. The students participate in an all-expense paid, weeklong visit to Stockholm, Sweden. This is one of three coveted trips that can be won at Intel ISEF and is reserved for the most senior prize winners.
This year, the three students were Nabeel Quryshi (ISEF, 2018) from Milwaukee, WI; Kyle Fridberg (ISEF, 2018) from Boulder, CO; and Muhammad Abdulla from West Melbourne, FL (ISEF, 2018).
Currently, Nabeel and Kyle are both freshmen at Harvard University while Muhammad attends the University of Florida. The three have demonstrated their strong commitment to scientific research. Nabeel’s ISEF project focused on the interaction of a novel protein in mitochondria. Kyle’s project focused on the discovery of a new iron and manganese sulfate, formed from the reaction of gold ore with sulfuric acid. And, Muhammed’s project was focused Chaos Theory and math. All three students earned the trip after winning Best of Category designation at the Grand Awards Ceremony of Intel ISEF 2018.
Like every year in this trip’s history, the students had the great honor of attending the Nobel ceremony, a storied event where award recipients and attendees don their tailed coats and most beautiful gowns. It’s a world-class event where guests rub elbows with the best and brightest in the scientific world and beyond. The event was followed by a smaller, more intimate dinner where the students personally met the 2018 Nobel Laureates, including American female scientist Frances H. Arnold, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Arthur Ashkin, for his work in Physics.
“Although they are extraordinary individuals, you get to understand that their discoveries did not come overnight,” said Kyle. “Some of these breakthroughs were decades of work in the making.”
Nabeel added, “The Nobel lecturers were definitely the highlight of the activities. It was a blast hearing the amazing work done by the winners and a thorough explanation of the science behind their discoveries. After speaking to them I realized the impact they have had on the world.”
The students also engaged with other SIYSS participants who won the trip to Sweden through other international STEM competitions. Kyle commented that, “While attending the Nobel festivities was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the most memorable part of the trip was spending time with the other SIYSS participants. From humorous banter to deep, philosophical conversations, it was really rewarding to take some time away from my everyday life to hang out with a group of like-minded people who I would never ordinarily get a chance to meet. I am really grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in this program.”
The sheer diversity of the proceedings was something that immediately struck Nabeel. “After attending, you truly understand that scientific discovery does not see color, race, gender, nationality or culture.”
The students immersed themselves in Swedish culture and visited iconic sites such as the Moderna Museet and the Nobel Prize Museum. Also, while in Stockholm, they attended two Nobel lectures in economics and medicine and had some leisure time to play some traditional Swedish winter sports such as curling. Kyle shared his experience consuming a local delicacy called gravlax, raw salmon cured in salt and dill and traditionally served as an appetizer.
While the Nobel trip does seem to be the peak of the students’ scientific journey so far, they do not plan on slowing down any time soon. Nabeel said, “I hope to pursue a career in biomedical science. Although I long to become a physician-scientist, I have an affinity for the world of biotech and would love to work in an entrepreneurial setting.” While Kyle said, ”In college, I plan to pursue a degree in chemistry and physics, as there is a lot of interesting research that is being performed at the intersection of these two fields. I hope to pursue a career in academia.”
As a child, Brian Wu (ISEF 2018-2019), a senior at Horace Mann School in New York City, was fascinated by the stars.