It was a lovely, sunny day in SoCal on Saturday, Nov. 13, but a group of primly dressed scientists were busy indoors at the Ramo Auditorium of Caltech presenting research. One after another they shared their findings and experiences. Studying the degradation of hydrochlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Discovering a new species in our oceans. Analyzing the effect of nanoparticles on stem cells. Elucidating the chemical evolution of the universe. Were these prestigious visiting lecturers? PhD candidates defending their theses? No, these promising young scientists are merely high school students. Yes, these great minds, who cannot even legally toast with champagne, are already well on their way to revolutionizing our future.
At the Region 1 Finals of the Siemens Competition, this is not unusual, but rather, the norm. The Siemens Competition, supported by the Siemens Foundation and the College Board, was launched in 1998 to recognize America's best and brightest math and science students. 2,033 students registered to enter the competition this year for a record number of 1,372 projects submitted. Out of this high-quality pool of applicants, 30 individuals and 30 teams of students were named regional finalists, representing 36 states. Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists at six leading research universities which host the regional competitions. Region 1, which encompasses Alaska, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington held its finals at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif.
I was honored to be a part of this group of finalists, and hearing the presentations of my peers over the finalist weekend, I could not help but feel optimistic about the future. Already, this group of students has improved understanding of acute rejection of transplant organs, provided vital data for biodiversity conservation efforts and developed technology that can potentially aid autistic children. More than that, the enthusiasm, initiative and brilliance of these students who have undertaken the challenge of conducting entire science investigations is inspiring in itself.
So here's to the Siemens regional finalists. We raise our glasses of sparkling apple cider to you and wish you all the best of luck. May you keep working and ensuring the future health and well-being of our planet!