Google Science Fair Winners: Teen-Age Scientists Inspire at TEDxWomen, Also Cite Need for Mentors
1.25.12 | In 2011, three teenage girls swept the top prizes of the first Google Science Fair. In this video, filmed in December at TEDxWomen, winners Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose and Naomi Shah describe the motivation for their research, their project outcomes, and their passion for scientific inquiry. It’s only 16 minutes long, and it’s amazing.
I was struck by their enthusiasm and curiosity, as well as their determination. Two of the three young women commented specifically on how difficult it was initially to find lab space and a mentor.
The youngest winner, Lauren Hodge, who took home the prize in the 13-14 age group for her study on how different marinades can increase or decrease the level of carcinogens in grilled chicken, said she emailed “about 200 different people within a five-hour radius” to find a lab where she could test her hypothesis.
“I got one positive response saying they could work with me,” said Hodge, who completed her research at a lab on Penn State University’s main campus. “Most of the others either never responded back, said they didn’t have the time, or didn’t have the equipment and couldn’t help me.”
Grand prize winner Shree Bose, who won in the 17-18 age group for discovering how to improve treatment for cancer patients who had developed a drug resistance, also sought a mentor when she decided, at age 15, to focus on cancer research. Only one of the many professors she emailed accepted her request, which led Bose to conduct her research at University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, under the supervision of Alakananda Basu, a professor of molecular biology and immunology there.
“My journey wasn’t just about the research,” Bose told the TEDx audience. “It was about finding my passion and it was about making my own opportunities when I didn’t even know what I was doing. It was about inspiration, and determination and never giving up on my interest for science and learning and growing.
“My story begins with a dried, withered spinach plant,” she said, referring back to her earliest forays into science, when she tried to turn spinach blue, “and it’s only getting better from there.”
This TEDx segment sparked a side conversation on how to connect young people interested in science with labs in nearby universities where they can conduct research and test their ideas. If you have any ideas, the conversation is open until Feb. 10.
For more from the winners, TEDx has posted Q&A interviews with Hodge, Bose and Shaw.
The first Google Science Fair drew some 7,500 entries from 91 countries. A second contest is now underway; entries must be submitted by April 1. Here’s a FAQ with more information on getting submissions and getting started.
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