ISEF Categories and Subcategories

The following 21 categories are those that will be used at ISEF 2020.

To view all categories on the same page, please click here.

Animal Sciences (ANIM)
Behavioral and Social Sciences (BEHA)
Biochemistry (BCHM)
Biomedical and Health Sciences (BMED)
Biomedical Engineering (ENBM)
Cellular and Molecular Biology (CELL)
Chemistry (CHEM)
Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (CBIO)
Earth and Environmental Sciences (EAEV)
Embedded Systems (EBED)
Energy: Sustainable Materials and Design (EGSD)
Engineering Mechanics (ENMC)
Environmental Engineering (ENEV)
Materials Science (MATS)
Mathematics (MATH)
Microbiology (MCRO)
Physics and Astronomy (PHYS)
Plant Sciences (PLNT)
Robotics and Intelligent Machines (ROBO)
Systems Software (SOFT)
Translational Medical Science (TMED)

Category Selection

Many projects could easily fit into more than one ISEF category. We highly recommend that you review the entire listing of the categories and sub-categories before choosing the category that most accurately describes your project.

At ISEF, you don’t need to compete in the same category as in your regional or state competition. Furthermore, most regional and state competitions do not use subcategories. You should carefully consider which subcategory best describes your project because your judges will be assigned based on their expertise in your chosen subcategory. If the project could be in multiple subcategories (or categories), it is best to select the primary subcategory of your project rather than “Other.”

Ask yourself the following questions to help in the selection of a category:

  1. Who will be the most qualified to judge my project? What area of expertise is the most important for the judge to have? (For example, a medical background or an engineering background?)
  2. What is the emphasis of my project? What characteristic of my project is the most innovative, unique or important? (For example, is it the application in medicine or the engineering of the machine? Is it inserting the proper gene or the method of computer mapping to demonstrate the results?)

Please note: Each Society-affiliated fair determines the categories for their competition. Local, regional, state and country fairs may or may not choose to use these new categories, dependent on the needs of their area. Please check with your affiliated fair(s) for the appropriate category listings at that level of competition.

Who Judges at ISEF?

There are two sets of volunteer judges that participate in interviewing and selecting winners among the more than 1400 projects at ISEF each year.

Grand Award Judges

Over 1,000 Grand Award Judges are needed to support the selection of top winners in each of the 21 scientific categories

Learn More and Apply

Special Award Judges

Special Award Organizations (SAO’s) recruit their own judges to choose the winners of their awards. Please note that a judge cannot serve as both a Special Award Judge and a Grand Award Judge

Special Award Organizations