The Greater San Diego Science Fair (GSDSEF) took place on Wednesday, March 11. Two of the students’ projects are slated to move on to the state competition, originally set for late April, but currently on hold. One student now has the opportunity to go to the International Science and Engineering Fair, if possible.
All three students placed in their separate categories. Michael Zeng ’22 won first place in the Engineering: Electrical and Mechanical category with his project titled, “For the Deaf to Hear – An Experimentation of Augmented Reality;” Jeffrey Wang ’21 took first place in the Medicine and Health Sciences category with “Multiple Factor Analysis Methods Elucidate Genome Expression Changes Across Cell Types;” and Sean Kim ’21’s “Gender Roles and Portrait Values in Relation to the Progression of Gender Equality” earned second place in the Behavioral and Social Sciences category.
More than 650 students from throughout San Diego participated in the 2020 GSDSEF. There are two divisions – junior for grades seven and eight, and senior for grades nine through twelve. As Jeffrey explains, “The GSDSEF is an opportunity for students to showcase their scientific experimentation and research work. They present their work to experts, ranging from college professors to professional scientists, who then ask questions and give students an opportunity to explain and defend their methods.”
With 14 different categories ranging from Animal Sciences to Physics and Astronomy, participants can win a variety of awards at the annual event including category awards, professional society awards and sweepstakes awards. Professional societies such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers or the Office of Naval Research have representatives on hand to evaluate the students’ work. The sweepstakes awards come with opportunities to receive scholarships and advance to the International Science and Engineering Fair. Jeffrey’s presented his research work on “a novel computational pipeline to analyze biological data for genome expression changes across cell types.” He was selected for a Grand Award, one of the top five projects honored at the event.
Bishop’s Marketing caught up with the three students to learn more.
How did you get involved?
Sean: I wanted to do a project on gender studies, and it’s rare to find competitions or places where I can submit projects on social sciences, so I entered!
Michael: I got involved after hearing about a friend who competed, I decided to just give it a try.
Jeffrey: I first heard about the GSDSEF from another student who participated—and realized that it would offer a great forum to share some of the work I have been doing at a bioinformatics research group.
Who at Bishop's has helped and inspired you?
S: Dr. Keller was my science fair advisor, and I had an IRB board composed of Dr. Keller, Dr. Jaiclin and Dr. Holland who reviewed my questionnaire. Big thanks to Mr. Ogden, who facilitated all this too.
M: Mr. Heldt was kind enough to sponsor my project this year, and the physics knowledge he taught me really came into use.
J: Several people at Bishop's have been enormously influential in my scientific development. The two major ones have been my biology teacher and sponsor, Doc Pelletier, and my physics teacher, Mr. Heldt. In addition to being generally awesome human beings, both are curious intellectuals, consummate scientists, and affable human beings.
What did you most appreciate about this opportunity?
S: I appreciate that I can do something that is purely done by myself and unaffiliated with schoolwork. It’s a little bit therapeutic, and a test of what I can do without a teacher telling me what to do.
J: The GSDSEF offers students the opportunity to present and explain their work to industry/research experts, who then deepen the conversation by asking questions and offering students the chance to defend their work. It is, in a sense, a vindication of the scientific work that I have done.
How will you apply what you learned in this process?
S: Hold on to your inner motivation and drive for a full year, because often, we have deadlines and dates that are in the proximity of a few days or weeks, but when you have something coming up that is in a year, it’s hard to see the bigger picture. I can apply how to see everything in the larger scale of things, where everything I do for school, home, or life, in general, will be factored in for a “due date” in the further future. The science fair helped me understand how everything is “start-to-finish,” even if there is no definite (or a far-off) deadline.
J: I definitely learned how to better explain the nuances of my project and field questions from experts.
What is the most important thing you take away from this?
M: Just do something. You don’t have to have an amazing project before you register. I had a really simple project in eighth grade, but I went into it believing in what I had, and I surprised myself with my performance. Now, the science fair is a part of my life. Science fair or not, the take-away for me is to take new opportunities and really do as much as I can.
S: Find something that you care about, and pursue it. I care about gender studies and social sciences, so I held onto that and finished a project. If there’s anything that you like, don’t leave it unfinished; even if it’s seemingly “insignificant,” there is a certain type of satisfaction when you finish something. I remember holding the printed notebook in my hands, and being like, “Oh yeah, I did that."