What was it like to compete at ISEF? A perspective from our MA delegates.

From May 12th to May 17th, the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) competition took place in Phoenix, Arizona. 1,800 students from 80 countries competed.  Massachusetts sent 20 delegates to the competition, and the students came back excited about their work, the experience, and inspired to do more.

While ISEF is a prestigious competition, Elizabeth Ding describes the experience as, “more like a celebration of students’ achievements and research.” This sentiment was shared by many of the students on the trip, who believed their trip to ISEF was one of the most valuable of their high school career, and everyone seemed to enjoy meeting all of the winners from around the world. The students from Massachusetts bonded with students from Russia, China, India, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Hungary, Pakistan, Palestine, Brazil, Egypt, and more. ISEF was a gathering of students from various backgrounds, but all the students shared their passion for STEM and making the world a better place. Ellia Sweeney even said, “The friendships that I have made this week will last a lifetime.” The ability to interact with all of the other students was made possible by the ability to visit other students’ projects in addition to a number of social events that were held during the week.

At the competition, all delegates competed for Grand Awards, which included overall awards as well as smaller, by category awards. In addition, some students were judged for Special Awards, which are specialized prizes typically funded by sponsors. On average, students were judged by 5-8 judges for Grand Awards, and those who were judged for special awards had 1-3 judges.

When asked what advice the students would give to next year’s Massachusetts delegates, one trend was clear: have fun! Gianfranco Yee perfectly captures this feeling in his statement, “You’ve already spent months on your research. You’re an expert at your project, so instead focus on bonding and making connections with the hundreds and thousands of other students who hold similar interests.” Going to ISEF is an amazing accomplishment already, and all the students agree that the best part about ISEF is the experience itself and meeting as many people as you can, not focusing on winning an award.

In fact, all the students who attend ISEF are already winners, who have done fantastic research even as a high school student, and ISEF is a celebration for them and their hard work. On behalf of MSEF, we would like to congratulate all of the students for their dedication to STEM and for participating in this phenomenal competition. We cannot wait to see what these students do next!

Below, we have listed the awards won by Massachusetts students:

Suvin Sundararajan: Westfield High School, Analysis of Manufacturing Process of D-Glucose-Based Thermoformed-Polymers       

Special Award: 1st Award, Air Force Research Lab

Grand Award: 2nd Award, Chemistry

Adway Wadekar: Saint John’s High School, Predicting Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Using Machine Learning         

Special Award: Certificate of Honorable Mention, American Statistical Association

John Lin: Boston Latin School, Development of a qPCR Assay for Quantification of Saccharibacteria

Grand Award: 4th Award, Microbiology

Ananthan Sadagopan: Westborough High School, Individual, IFNɣ Susceptibility in Chordoma

Grand Award: 4th Award, Biochemistry

Elizabeth Ding: Lexington High School, Ultrasensitive detection of early stage cancer using ctDNA sequencing with UMIs           

Grand Award: 4th Award, Translational Medical Science




Blog post created by Paige Vincent