Swept

Not a big surprise, but a notable event nonetheless – the top Siemens Mathematics, Science and Technology annual prizes were all taken by girls this year. From the New York Times*:

Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, both 17 and seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School on Long Island, split the first prize — a $100,000 scholarship — in the team category for creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.

Isha Himani Jain, 16, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa., placed first in the individual category for her studies of bone growth in zebra fish, whose tail fins grow in spurts, similar to the way children’s bones do. She will get a $100,000 scholarship.

Congratulations to them – and all the winners and finalists, male or female – for their achievements!!

On another note, I was reading the project descriptions of the rather well-resourced projects that made the finals and wondering just how many other students from a range of backgrounds would be able to excel at science if they had access to such resources too. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with those who were finalists making it to where they did. Instead I’m just wondering (as usual) about how we can get more young people involved, and how we can cast the net wider. (A vital resource in all of this would be more and better-trained and better-paid science teachers, of course.) There are so many missed opportunities and so much wasted talent out there. While thinking about that, I stumbled on a related thought expressed by one of Sheril’s commenters, Emily. She’d noticed the following observation in the New York Times article:

Three-quarters of the finalists have a parent who is a scientist. The parents of Alicia Darnell, who won second place, are medical researchers at Rockefeller University, and her maternal grandparents were scientists, too. Isha Himani Jain, who took home the top individual prize, published her first research paper with her father, a professor at Lehigh University, when she was 10 or 11; her mother is a doctor.

and Emily said (among other things):

This fact is slightly worrying to me. What about students who don’t have the benefit of a parent is a scientist? Who will draw these students – who are likely equally talented in science as their peers in the Siemens competition – into high-octane science, math, and engineering opportunities early on?

Yes, three-quarters seems worryingly high indeed, but I’d like to understand it better. Looking at it in isolation might not tell anything close to the whole story. For example, I wonder whether this percentage has gone up or down over time. Does anyone know?

-cvj

(*via the Intersection)

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