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10/08/2013

SSP’s Blog has Moved!

As part of an overarching effort to integrate the Society’s websites into one web platform, the SSP Blog has moved. We hope you will visit us at our new location www.societyforscience.org/blog where you will find frequent updates on our alumni, competitions, publications, and more.

10/07/2013

Betsy Arnold, Former Finalist, Now Volunteers as a Judge at Intel ISEF

Betsy Arnold is a former International Science and Engineering Fair finalist, who served as a judge in the plant sciences category at this year’s Intel ISEF. In her day job, she is an Associate Professor in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona where she conducts research, teaches, and mentors students (including high school students.) 

 

ISEF was a life-changing experience for me when I was in high school, and it is such a pleasure to be involved with the current cohort of exceptional young scientists. 

 

I grew up in central Phoenix and had two fantastic science teachers during middle school and high school. The latter, Don Galen, inspired me to start my own research projects, and under his guidance I not only was able to work at Arizona State University as a high school student, but I was able to develop a research project that provided the support that make my undergraduate choice -- Duke -- a reality.

My family was always supportive and valued education, for which I am very fortunate -- but I had no idea that science could be a career (as well as a lifestyle!), as no one in my family had gone in that direction before. Mr. Galen's support made an enormous difference in my career choice, and my experiences at ISEF were critical in helping me learn to communicate, to recognize what I didn't know, and in inspiring me to think about becoming a professional in biology.

Thanks in large part to that research experience, I was able to start working in research labs as a freshman at Duke. I was a Howard Hughes research student during the summer after my freshman year, and I ended up completing a senior honors thesis on that project (effects of flower color polymorphism on pollination dynamics). I remember presenting in undergraduate poster sessions and reflecting on how much science fairs and ISEF had helped me be prepared to do so.

When I graduated from Duke, I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school. I wasn't sure exactly what aspect of biology I wanted to study, though, other than the general topic of plants and their interactions with other organisms. Most fortunately, I heard about a fantastic opportunity: a one-year research assistantship in Panama, at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). In addition to providing me with my first exposure to tropical biodiversity, STRI gave me the opportunity to work in a world-class research setting within a tropical forest. It was incredible. My work focused on evaluating patterns of herbivory and pathogen damage on tropical trees, as a means to understand leaf defenses.

At the end of my year in Panama, I started my PhD work at the University of Arizona. I was very fortunate to receive fellowship support from the National Science Foundation for my graduate work, and my interests -- on fungal symbionts of plants -- coalesced into a series of studies that paved the way for my current activities.

I completed my doctorate in 2002, and then returned to Duke as a postdoctoral fellow through the National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Microbial Biology. In 2005, I joined the faculty at the University of Arizona, and I am now an associate professor. My work focuses on fungal evolution and ecology, with spin-offs into sustainable agriculture and pharmaceutical drug discovery. One highlight of my current position is that I have the chance to support students at both the high school and undergraduate levels (in addition to my graduate students and postdocs), and that has been absolutely fulfilling. I typically have 3-4 high school students a year in my lab, and they have done great at regional science fairs. To our great delight, one has gone on to compete at Intel ISEF. He is now a first-generation college student at University of Arizona.

I also work closely with a local high school teacher, and have had the chance to support her for two research stints in Panama. We also have worked with approximately 200 of her students for 'microbial discovery' workshops in which the students are doing front-line research on plant-fungal associations.

All of this is to say that I can trace many good things back to Mr. Galen and my earliest days in science. His support and encouragement, coupled with the incredible gift given to me by my middle-school teacher (who gave the 'Future Scientist' award when I was in 8th grade!), were instrumental in my development.


10/04/2013

Intel ISEF 2006 Alum Now Founder of Social Networking Site

Alex Capecelatro won a 3rd Award in Materials and Bioengineering at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in 2006. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in Materials Science and Engineering, Alex went on to found At the Pool, a social networking site.

 

Alex Capecelatro currentWhat was your experience being an Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist like? 
Being a finalist was a pretty amazing experience. I met a ton of really smart, highly engaged students working on world-changing ideas ranging from mathematics to biology to robotics.  I had never heard of Intel ISEF going into my senior year of high school and then nine months later, I was there presenting my work. It was a humbling experience.

 

Can you provide a short description of your research project? 
My project was titled "Nanoengineering Aerogel for Insulin Insulation" and I was awarded a special award from the United States Army and a 3rd Award in the Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering category. I was working with aerogels to create super-insulating capsules for passive refrigeration of insulin (a problem that was making headlines back in 20Alex Capecelatro at project05 and 2006 as diabetics without electricity were left with few options).  In order to solve this problem, I constructed a home-built supercritical extractor and helped formulate a new series of polymer-crosslinked aerogels.  As a type-1 diabetic, I was accustomed to traveling with insulin and the issues that arise when it warms up, so I set out to make a product that would better my life as well as others living with diabetes.

 

How did participating in events like Intel ISEF affect your career trajectory? 
I learned a number of things by participating in Intel ISEF. First, I learned how to present a complicated set of scientific achievements and translate them to layman's terms. If your work remains esoteric and complicated, it's hard to ever make an impact. So I was set on simplifying the problem and creating a compelling story that justified my work and got people to emotionally connect.  Second, I learned the power of reaching out to experts in the field to help as mentors and advisors, to aid in my scientific exploration, and to help provide resources for my work. This included welders and pipe-fitters, graduate students at MIT and UCLA, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Glenn Research Center, as well as local chemistry teachers. ThirdAlex Capecelatro project item only, this experience gave me a greater appreciation for engineering and the sciences and the impact you can make by getting out and building something.

 

What are you up to now? 
I graduated with a degree in Materials Science & Engineering from UCLA, have published a handful of papers and contributed to a number of patents in the chemical / nanotech fields, and have worked with researchers at Harvard, Sandia National Lab, the Naval Research Lab, and UCLA.

 

Two years ago I left my job at Fisker Automotive to start my own company in the software space. We launched a product called At The Pool which aims to connect people offline and build better communities.  We've been called the "anti-Facebook," have grown to include members in more than 98 countries, and focus intently on making people's lives better through facilitating offline events and activities. We've been fortunate to raise capital from a bevy of sophisticated investors and we're launching a new mobile product at the end of summer.

 Alex Capecelatro action shot

Do you have any advice for young students interested in science? 
I highly encourage young students to explore opportunities in the science and engineering fields. The opportunity to build and create world-changing innovations while working amongst some of the brightest minds is truly a privilege. It is important to get good grades and work hard, but ultimately it's the side projects that are most rewarding. If you have an idea to cure a disease or invent a new device, nothing is stopping you from carrying through with it. It's amazing how many people will support and help if you just ask. When you realize anything is possible the journey becomes a lot easier and a lot more fun!

10/02/2013

Broadcom MASTERS Finalists Meet President Obama

The Broadcom MASTERS finalists got the opportunity of a lifetime on Monday, September 30 when they met President Obama and received an impromptu tour of the Oval Office!

 

Group on way to WH Visit w AllieFirst, the finalists were invited to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where they met with Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Dr. Holdren discussed the importance of STEM education, hands-on research, and mentioned how he built rockets in his backyard when he was their age.

 

Then, the students were able to meet with additional Office of Science and Technology Policy staff in small groups. Each staffer talked about their specific area of responsibility and the finalists had an opportunity to ask questions.

 

Group with Scott pre WH VisitFollowing that, the finalists were able to travel to the White House. While waiting in the Rose Garden, a Secret Service officer provided them with an interesting history of the building. Then President Obama arrived! He met each finalist, shook their hands, and asked where they were from. He told them how proud he was of their accomplishments, how important their work in the STEM fields was, and that it should continue to be celebrated. After a few photos, the President invited the finalists into the Oval Office where he gave them an impromptu 10-minute tour. The finalists were able to touch the President’s desk and he told them about the artwork and some early patents in the Oval Office.

10/01/2013

Broadcom MASTERS 2013 Winners Announced!

On Tuesday, October 1, SSP and Broadcom Foundation announced the winners of the 2013 Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, Engineering, and Rising Stars).

 

River winner photo BCM 2013

River Grace, 14, from West Melbourne, FL won the Samueli Foundation Grand Prize of $25,000 for his project, Rain Dance of the Radiata: Behavior of the Endangered Radiated Tortoise and Related Species and his mastery of STEM principles during the weeklong competition.

 

River became fascinated by the behavior of tortoises through his volunteer work at his local zoo and a tortoise breeding facility. He observed that whenever it rained, a captive group of endangered radiated tortoises would rise up and shuffle rhythmically. River hypothesized that this behavior allows tortoises to avoid drowning in flash floods in their arid native habitat in Madagascar and tested their reactions to a gentle flow of water, light mist and a sprinkling of lentils. To support conservation efforts, River now plans to repeat the experiment on several closely related tortoise species.

 

The Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation of $10,000 went to Eitan Acks, 14, of San Diego. Eitan was inspired to study speech therapy by his little brother, who has dyspraxia, a disability that affects the ability to communicate. Eitan wanted to improve on the simple exercises using tongue depressors prescribed by speech therapists. So he put his engineering skills to use building a better device to strengthen the parts of the body used in speech, and to mend the connection between those muscles and the brain. Through trial and error with five different prototypes, Eitan found that his device is capable of improving modern speech therapy for dyspraxia as well as other speech disorders.

 

In addition, first and second place awards were provided in each of the four STEM categories: science, technology, engineering, and math.

 

Science Awards: First place goes to Keoni Gandall of Huntington Beach, CA, for his project on engineering pink salt. Second place goes to Julienne Sauer of San Ramon, CA., for her project on superconductors and frictionless motion.

 

Technology Awards: First place goes to Austin McCoy of Rochester, MN, for his project on disease detection lab equipment for developing countries. Second place goes to Rebecca Bloomfield of Colorado Springs, CO, for her project on the effects of slope and remediation on post-fire sedimentation.

 

Engineering Awards: First place goes to Mihir Garimella of Pittsburgh, PA, for his project on digitally recreating smells. Second place goes to Sidhika Balachandar, of Gainesville, FL, for her project on soundproofing.

 

Mathematics Awards: First place goes to Johann Kailey-Steiner of Denver, CO for his project on rocket design. Second place goes to Joshua Wentzel of Portland, OR, for his project on homemade air cannons.

 

 Krystal Horton of Menifee, CA, and Sean Weber of Sequim, WA were also named Rising Stars and won a trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in May 2014 as part of the Broadcom MASTERS International program.

 

Read the press release
Learn more about the Broadcom MASTERS

Students Meet STEM Professionals

On Monday, the 30 Broadcom MASTERS finalists had a morning filled with hands-on STEM challenges where judges were evaluating not only their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math, but also their teamwork and leadership skills. During this, each team also had the opportunity to meet with 11 STEM professionals. These professiCareer Panel Liz Uptononals were on hand to discuss their experiences, answer questions, and discuss the students’ projects. In pairs, students rotated between tables where the professionals were seated, allowing them a chance to speak personally to each.

 

A few highlights from the panel:

 

Liz Upton, from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, asked finalists about their interests and then told them “by the time you’re 20, there’s going to be a whole new horizon of things to be interested in out there.” In addition, she discussed how she didn’t start out studying for a science career, because in the United Kingdom specialization starts around age 14 and her parents initially wanted her to be a lawyer.

 

Shane Lansing from Broadcom Corporation brought examples of various products that Broadcom chips had been used in, including a Bluetooth headset, Nintendo Wii remote, modem, and other assorted circuit boards that the finalists could examine and ask questions about.

 

Career Panel Gray TeamCraig Saffoe from the Smithsonian National Zoo told finalists that the Smithsonian is involved in a much broader range of activities than the general public may be aware of. One of the things he loves about working for the Smithsonian is that “no matter what kind of questions I have, there are people at my fingertips that can help me search for answers.” He encouraged the finalists to continue asking questions, as the answer to one question frequently leads to others.

 

The full list of STEM professionals who participated in Monday’s activity are listed below:

 

Drew Baden, PhD
University of Maryland
Professor & Chair of Physics Department
Career Panel 3
 

Phillip DeShong, PhD
University of Maryland
Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

 

Phil Dixon
Broadcom
Engineer

 

Dennis Glanzman
National Institutes of Health
Program Chief

 Career Panel 4

Mi Hillfores, PhD
National Institutes of Health
Chief, Experimental Therapeutics Program
Clinical Neuroscience Research Branch

 

Ike Ikizyan
Broadcom
Mobile Platform Solutions, Associate Technical Director

 

Shane Lansing
Broadcom
Senior Manager, IC Design Engineering

 
Claire L. Parkinson, PhD
Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Climate Change Senior Scientist

 
Craig Saffoe
Smithsonian National Zoo
Great Cats Curator

 

Dennis Twombly, PhD
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Extramural Training Director, Deputy Director Office of Extramural Policy

 

Liz Upton
Raspberry Pi Foundation
Co-founder

 

SSP Reaches Out to Local Students and Teachers

On Saturday, September 28, hundreds of people came out to meet the finalists of the Broadcom MASTERS. Visitors had the chance to meet each of the finalists and discuss the projects that qualified them as one of the 30 finalists in this national STEM competition for middle school students.

 

In particular, SSP was thrilled to welcome teachers and students from the Washington, DC community who we hope will become inspired to participate in their upcoming science fairs. To further support students in our community, SSP will soon launch the Broadcom MASTERS Junior Varsity program. This pilot effort is aimed at increasing and diversifying the pool of students participating and succeeding in science fair.

 

Several of the teachers and students who visited the Broadcom MASTERS Science and Engineering Project Showcase also attended an outreach event SSP hosted earlier in the day. Rick Bates, SSP’s interim CEO, described the event as an opportunity to “share your ideas about how to reach students and provide inspiration for them to focus on STEM projects.” He added that SSP’s goal is to increase not only the amount of students participating in science fair, but also the quality of their projects and to develop the talent pool in our own backyard.

 

The event included an opportunity for student attendees to build their own roller coasters out of assorted supplies, with the goal of having a marble travel all the way through the track without needing additional assistance. Teachers and parents also had a chance to join a round-table discussion about how to get both students and adults more motivated and involved in STEM activities, such as science fair.

 

Issues that were raised included the importance of teacher involvement (and administrative support for such involvement), learning how to find the resources to take the step between an in-home project and one that requires more sophisticated materials and/or expertise, exposing students who don’t have family members involved in STEM to the reality of science by having them meet real scientists, finding class time to spend on science fair along with all the other required materials that need to be covered, and providing opportunities for students to participate in more hands-on experiences.

09/27/2013

Broadcom MASTERS Finalists Arrive in Washington, DC

Thirty of the nation’s best young scientists are arriving in Washington, DC today to compete in the finals of the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars).

 

This week-long event kicks off tonight with a welcome dinner, providing a chance for the students to get to know each other and learn about the rest of the competition. Tomorrow, they will present their science fair projects to both the judges and the public aRegistration Broadcom 2013t the National Geographic Museum. To qualify for the Broadcom MASTERS, each student had to place in the top 10% of participants in their local science fair, then fill out an application. These 30 students were selected from almost 1,700 applicants nationwide.

 

Finalists will then compete in two days of hands-on STEM challenges designed in conjunction with the Maryland Science Center, JASON Project, and the National Academy of Engineering to test not only their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math, but also their teamwork, communication, and leadership skills. The week wraps up on Tuesday, October 1 with a dinner and awards ceremony held at the Carnegie Institution of Science, where more than $60,000 in awards will be announced, including a top award of $25,000 provided by the Samueli Foundation.

 

Are you in the greater Washington, DC area? Stop by the Science and Engineering Project Showcase at the National Geographic Museum on Saturday, September 28 from 1-4PM for your chance to meet the finalists! This event is free and open to the public. Also, check out this Washington Post article featuring two local finalists!

09/25/2013

SSP Earns a Spot on the 2013 GreatNonprofits Top-Rated List!

2013 Great Nonprofits BadgeSociety for Science & the Public has been honored with a prestigious 2013 Top-Rated Award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations. 

 

The Top-Rated Nonprofit award is based on the large number of positive reviews that SSP received – reviews written by alumni, volunteers, donors and subscribers.

 

Here are excerpts from some of our recent reviews:

 

“I work to change the lives of other students because this nonprofit changed mine.”

 

“I was given the chance to showcase my high school research over the years because of the tremendous work this group does to put on the Intel ISEF and Intel STS competitions. Because of my participation, I made new friends, helped pay for college, and ultimately decided my career goal and college major.”

 

“I was a participant in several programs run by the Society for Science & the Public, and I can honestly say that they were life changing. I had always been interested in science but always felt that I didn't have the skill or talent to pursue my dreams. SSP gave the opportunity to travel the world and meet other students with my similar interests.”

 

“I can honestly say that the programs that SSP provides to the community changed my life. As a student with a learning disability I had little hope of pursuing my dream of becoming a professional scientist. Even many of my teachers encouraged me to 'have more realistic career ideas'…SSP not only encouraged me to complete my own experiments but to present them to the scientific community are part of the competitions they hosted.“

 

“I've faithfully read Science News for almost 20 years now, and there's just no other magazine like it in the industry. It doesn't "dumb down" research summaries. At the same time, the language and explanation are very understandable, even to a layperson.”

 

While the Top-Rated Awards run through the end of October, SSP was part of the inaugural group to qualify for the year.


 “Savvy donors want to see the impact of their donations more than ever,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits. “People with direct experience with Society for Science & the Public have voted that the organization is making a real difference.”

 

Being on the Top-Rated list should give alumni, volunteers, donors and subscribers more confidence that SSP is a credible organization.  This award is a form of recognition by the community and the reviews show the on-the-ground results.

 

Read more reviews or write about your own experience with Society for Science & the Public!

09/24/2013

Broadcom MASTERS Finalists Present Projects to the Public

Gilmartin,raymond at Public Day USE THIS ONEThe finalists of the 2013 Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) will be presenting their research projects to the public on Saturday, September 28 at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC.

 

If you are located in the greater Washington, DC area this is a great opportunity to meet the finalists and talk with them about their research. Groups are welcome to attend, and the event is free. Students attending the event will also have the opportunity to play "Human Bingo" and learn interesting facts about the finalists.

 

Broadcom MASTERSLu,daniel;henderson,olivia;odzer,nicole;grimmett,maria elena is the national science, technology, engineering, and math competition for U.S. middle school students. Finalists were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists and engineers from among 300 semifinalists, close to 1,700 applicants, and 6,000 nominated students.

 

Read the finalist press release
See the full list of finalists
View the Project Showcase printable flyer

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