Why Aren't Young Scientists Cool - Shining a Light on Science Celebrities

The High Flyer (Blog Banner)-NAGC.pngI wanted to be the Selena Gomez of Science. The Justin Bieber of biology. The Emma Watson of… well, you understand. I wanted adulation for being a Science Olympian. There was just something about the recognition from having one’s work appreciated by adoring fans that I wanted. I sought validation of all the work in my labs.

Biography Picture (1).jpgBelieve it or not, I somehow thought it was going to happen easily. Of course, Taylor Swift entertains millions of people and writes songs for others. She is in public and her job is to make others happy. I honestly did not see why tiny breakthroughs in the creases of the scientific world for an audience of gray-haired standard bearers in peer-reviewed publications didn’t earn me my own Grammy and fan club as well.

I did not easily give up on the idea. I tried building my own venue, a compact lab in my basement, and began reaching out to people beyond school. I created a winning team of student scientists to compete in the National Science Olympiad (NSO) – it had the word “National” in it after all. Our team was quickly a force with which to be reckoned.

Yet none of our accomplishments got an inch of space in the local newspaper. I gritted my teeth as the football team’s new six-game winning streak made the papers while our 14th place finish in NSO was overlooked. I fought – I fought for my teammates, for the recognition they deserved in that windowless room where we practiced, sans cheerleaders. I met with school administrators to convey the importance of what we were doing frequently.

I soon realized the absurdity of the situation. I was attempting to make science quizzes compete with bone-crushing tackles. I saw sympathy in the eyes with whom I spoke. However, what I did not see was any budget. Several team members quit – perhaps I overpromised that we would someday leave that basement. We were not going to get even a room in our school for our club.

My experience at my first Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) could not have been more different. Newspapers covered it, biopharma companies handed out checks. I had never felt so motivated before. By the end of the week, I felt lightheaded as I walked around the convention center. Of course, there were no record deals afterwards – the lights on that one fair dimmed quickly.

Nevertheless, I felt hope. What if every day could be the International Science and Engineering Fair?

I knew the internet had to be part of a solution that worked every day. So, I started building a site in a frenzy, perhaps what led to the name: ScienceBuzz.com. I networked with professors, scientists, and, of course, press agencies. I gave people fan pages and prepared elevator talks for how the site would make people at least “internet-famous” like gamers or the guys who created the Peanut Butter Jelly Time video.

My motto in promoting ScienceBuzz is We’re Not Famous… Yet. I knocked on doors of corporations throughout the nation, eventually garnering support from the National Institutes of Health, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, Genentech, Amgen, Janssen Biotech, BIO International Organization, and American Association of Cancer Research. Students are now visible locally and globally in the scientific community.

Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of the Human Genome Project, told me, during one of my pitches, “Student scientists are as important to our society as any other adult or celebrity.” I could almost hear the “amens” echoing in the distance.

I never want to watch friends quit preparing for ISEF or the Science Olympiad or asking “why” – ScienceBuzz is going to get scientists out of the basements. It is no secret how much I love the research itself, but my mission is to make sure that, in an age where even the importance of science is apparently up for debate, that every milestone for every aspiring scientist is celebrated.

Roy Ghosh, Parkland High School Class of 2018, is a researcher with NIH, NICHD. Ghosh built the academic-networking site ScienceBuzz for middle and high school students interested in science, where they can publish their scientific work, build profiles, and communicate with peers and scientists. 

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The views expressed in The High Flyer are not necessarily those of NAGC.