March 14, 2014

The Super Bowl of Science


Keith: Now it is time to get your geek on! And Scott is here with a story about the winners of what is often called the Super Bowl of Science.

Scott: Yeah, Keith. The scientists competing in this year’s Intel Science Talent Search are judged on projects ranging from photon and positron emission from primordial black hole clusters (Yeah, that is a thing.) all the way to innovative cancer treatments. And all of the contestants have something really cool in common.

It is a red carpet, black tie, Hollywood-style celebration for some of the most promising scientists in America. And every single one of them is still in high school. This year’s winner out of forty finalists, 17-year-old Eric Chen of San Diego.

Eric Chen: I really had no idea that I would get this honor, and I’m very, very happy!

Scott: Eric is developing a new drug to prevent the flu virus from spreading.

Eric: Currently, the vaccines and the antivirals, they are losing their effectiveness, so there’s this urgent need for new medicine. I want to really show the world what a high school student is really capable of doing.

Scott: The second place winner, Kevin Lee from Irvine, California, invented a new way to map the human heart. A project Lee began after he suffered a heart arrhythmia three years ago.

Kevin Lee: It was really scary just not knowing what was going on, so I was really interested in figuring out what happened.

Scott: The Intel Science Talent Search brings the best and the brightest young scientists together each year.

Contestant: It’s a really special thing to be able to sit down with other high school students and be excited about science.

Contestant: People don’t look at us like we’re really nerdy because we’re all nerdy in the same way.

Contestant: Through the combination of all our knowledge, we can solve any problem in the world.

Scott: And they are certainly trying to do just that. Over 74 years, eight finalists at the Intel contest later became Nobel Prize winners. This year, at least 20% of the finalists already have patents for their innovations. Listen to any one of them and you wonder how America is behind in math and science.

Contestant: It’s a very small concentration of nanoparticles mixed with the dyes…

Contestant: Even the smallest secondary metastatic tumors around the body…

Contestant: You have to get the DNA into the cells and into the mitochondria…

Scott: Ten out of the forty finalists are working on tests or cures for cancer. And for Sara Sakowitz of New York, the research is personal. After losing several relatives to breast cancer, she starting working – in the seventh grade – on a gene-based therapy to defeat the disease. She hasn’t even graduated high school yet but may have a treatment for cancer.

So for just one night, students swapped their lab coats for something a bit more formal and celebrated on a night all to honor their hard work.

Intel representative: We want to celebrate them like rock stars, like football players, like movie stars.

Scott: Which is exactly how they were treated. After the pictures and hugs, the three top finishers, now rightfully celebs of high school science, hopped into their limo and rode off to a future they seem destined to help create.

And the winner gets $100,000 for his research.

Now, do you think that you have got a science project on the brain that might be Intel worthy? Well, find out how you can get involved at


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