Why do science? Teens explain why they put in the effort | Science News for Students

Why do science? Teens explain why they put in the effort

Finalists of the Regeneron Science Talent Search share why they love doing research
Mar 15, 2017 — 12:00 pm EST
Krithika Iyer

Finalist Krithika Iyer shares her work during Public Day at the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Chris Ayers Photography

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Research in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) isn’t easy. It involves long hours, reading papers full of complex words and a good dose of failure. But to the teens at the Regeneron Science Talent Search, it’s all been worth it.

Created by Society for Science & the Public and sponsored by Regeneron (a company that develops and produces medicines), this yearly event brings together high school seniors from all over the United States. They gather here to share their science projects with the public and compete for nearly $2 million in prizes. (Society for Science & the Public also published Science News for Students and this blog.)

Below, six finalists share what motivates them to put in the effort to do research. It’s not about fame or fortune. Instead, these teens are driven by curiosity, the need to help others and a deep desire to solve puzzles.

Through my scientific work, I get to make the world a better place. Rather than focusing on improving my income or being successful, I get the opportunity to use my skills and talents and knowledge to benefit other people.

- Emily Ann Peterson, 17, Smithtown High School East, St. James, N.Y.

Why I think doing research is important is because it kind of allows you to just sit down with a problem…and tackle it for a really long time, try everything you think possible to solve the problem….if you’re able to persist and work on a problem for a really long time I think you’ll be able to achieve something

- Alec Sun, 18, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, N.H.

You get to delve into an area that you’re really interested in….I learned how to communicate with the scientific community. Reaching out to professors and experts in the field was really great because I was better able to understand…the scientific process and communicating my ideas to other people.

- Evani Radiya-Dixit, 18, The Harker School, San Jose, Calif.

I believe that it can truly make an impact in people’s lives. My grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010, and he and I were very close. So seeing him lose the ability to walk or speak over the next three years, that sort of pushed me to get involved in research to try to solve that problem. What disease was he suffering from? How could I…help treat it? So I joined a lab my freshman year [of high school], and tried to cure Parkinson’s. That didn’t turn out as well as I hoped. But I continued that passion for solving problems in medicine and in health that actually can truly make an impact and touch people’s lives. I hope that’s the way I can use science in the future.

- Arjun Subramaniam, 17, The Harker School, San Jose, Calif.

I find working on math problems on a prolonged scale of time to be enjoyable. You get to understand things on a much deeper level than in a school setting or something. I find it to be really beautiful in the end when you finally see the pattern that underlies all the noise at the top.

- Julian Wellman, 18, Greenhills School, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Research is really important to me, because it’s about solving the big problems of today so we don’t have to face them tomorrow.

- Krithika Iyer, 18, Plano East Senior High School, Plano, Texas.

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Power Words

(more about Power Words)

blog     Short for web log, these Internet posts can take the form of news reports, topical discussions, opinionated rants, diaries or photo galleries.

engineering     The field of research that uses math and science to solve practical problems.

field     An area of study, as in: Her field of research was biology. Also a term to describe a real-world environment in which some research is conducted, such as at sea, in a forest, on a mountaintop or on a city street. It is the opposite of an artificial setting, such as a research laboratory.

high school     A designation for grades nine through twelve in the U.S. system of compulsory public education. High-school graduates may apply to colleges for further, advanced education.

Parkinson’s disease     A disease of the brain and nervous system that causes tremors and affects movement, memory and mood.

Science Talent Search     An annual competition created and run by Society for Science & the Public, which 2016 is sponsored by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Begun in 1942, this event brings 40 research-oriented high school seniors to Washington, D.C. to showcase their research to the public and to compete for awards.

society     An integrated group of people or animals that generally cooperate and support one another for the greater good of them all.

Society for Science and the Public    A nonprofit organization created in 1921 and based in Washington, D.C. Since its founding, SSP has been not only promoting public engagement in scientific research but also the public understanding of science. It created and continues to run three renowned science competitions: the Regeneron Science Talent Search (begun in 1942), the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (initially launched in 1950) and Broadcom MASTERS (created in 2010). SSP also publishes award-winning journalism: in Science News (launched in 1922) and Science News for Students (created in 2003). Those magazines also host a series of blogs (including Eureka! Lab).

sun     The star at the center of Earth’s solar system. It’s an average size star about 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Or a sunlike star.

technology     The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.