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2022 ACES Camp for Girls- Girls Closing STEM Gender Gap!

About ACES Camp for Girls

SARSEF’s Applied Career Exploration in STEM (ACES) Camp for Girls is a free, week-long summer camp for middle school girls from Sunnyside Unified School District held every July. The camp is designed to explore a wide variety of careers, provide a path to potential success, and spark their interest in higher education in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. ACES stresses teamwork, use of technology, and hands-on learning, while giving students a feel for the college experience at a critical time in their lives. 

After running for over a decade, the program has had more than 500 participants. Some camp alumni are now engineers or scientists. ACES focuses on the importance of math, science, and careers in technical sciences and underscores that women are essential in every career. 

2022 ACES Camp for Girls

Read the Arizona Daily Star Article highlighting ACES Camp for Girls

SARSEF’s Applied Career Exploration in STEM (ACES) Camp for Girls took place the week of July 11-15 at Pima Community College- Downtown Campus. It is a week-long summer camp for middle school girls from Sunnyside Unified School District. The Summer Camp created a learning atmosphere in both English and Spanish to accommodate Spanish speaking students and increase confidence in STEM learning.

The camp is free and designed to explore a wide variety of careers, provide a path to potential success, and spark their interest in higher education in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. 

40 campers visited STEM centers throughout Tucson that inspired learning and curiosity with immersive, hands-on STEM-based tours. Tours included Pima Community College- Downtown Campus, the University of Arizona, Sonora Quest Laboratories/ Laboratory Science of Arizona, and many more!  

From visiting the Automotive Technology and Innovation Center to touring an autopsy room where they examined real human organs preserved for just these types of educational opportunities, the campers learned and got excited about possible careers in automotive, robotics, machining, welding, animal sciences, health sciences, and many more! 

Combining both entrepreneurship and STEM, the campers explored the development of innovative product ideas, venture capital, and finance management through a “Shark Tank” project of designing and creating a product made of recycled materials. 

SARSEF CEO Julie Euber helped ACES Campers understand their superpowers as they discovered and developed their talents with Clifton StrengthsExplorer Assessment. By taking the assessment, the campersreceived a report with their top three talents and ideas for how to highlight, illuminate and provide important data and action steps for a better future!   

When asking the campers what they think of when they hear the word “science”, Patricia, Grade 7 said,  
“I think about experimenting with new things to create something that will help our society”.  

ACES Camp for Girls provided the opportunity for students to explore careers in STEM, build creative inventions, assess their talents, and create lasting friendships.

ACES Camp Girls on the Radio!

Thank you to Lotus Communications Corporation Arizona and Riley for interviewing SARSEF Programs Manager, America Miranda, and our ACES Camp campers! The interview aired on the following stations: 94.9 MIXfm, Rock 102.1 KFMA, 96.1 FM KLPX, and ESPN Tucson.

If you missed the interview on the radio, tune in here!

About SARSEF:

SARSEF was formed in 1955 in an effort to increase student interest in the field of science. The mission of SARSEF is to engage Arizona’s Pre-K-12 grade students in critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through inquiry-based learning and research.

SARSEF accomplishes this mission through a variety of programming including a high school mentoring program, the STAR Lab, SARSEF Fair Week, educational outreach programs with an emphasis on underrepresented populations in the sciences, teacher professional development, ACES Camp for Middle School girls, Racing the Sun, and Arizona STEM Adventure.

To learn more about SARSEF programs and how students, teachers, and families can get involved, visit sarsef.org

Interested in supporting SARSEF and our work creating Arizona’s future critical thinkers and problem solvers through science and engineering?

Click Here to Visit SARSEF’s Donation Page

SARSEF to Bring University-Level Research to Rural High School Classrooms

(Tucson, Arizona) SARSEF is launching a new rural high school program across Arizona, connecting students with support and resources that are often lacking in geographically remote locations. The program will bring university-level research to high school students as they participate in whole class based authentic scientific projects. Teachers have been paired with Research Fellows from the University of Arizona and they will work together to elevate student research.

The program will focus on classroom-level research projects, emphasizing topics relevant to students and their rural communities. With a whole class problem-based learning approach, students will acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems.

“SARSEF is unique in supporting whole class research experiences for high school students,” said SARSEF Director of Research, Margaret Wilch, PhD, “I am excited that the program will provide authentic research experiences to approximately 120 rural students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to conduct scientific research, let alone to interact with an actual scientist. The program focuses on freshman and sophomore science classes, not on science classes where students have already self-identified as loving science. In this way, we hope the program will provide greater access to science, enabling students to experience the creativity of thinking like a scientist and doing science.”

Teachers and Research Fellows received training on how to lead whole class research inquiry and design projects with Margaret Wilch, PhD at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Arizona. Classroom research project topics were chosen based on concern and relevancy to there rural community.

Teachers and Research Fellows will be awarded with $2,000 stipends supported by the Office of Societal Impact, UArizona Research, Innovation and Impact. Additional programmatic support comes from the Thomas R. Brown Family Foundations.

Four high schools across Arizona are participating in the new Rural High School Program:

  • CAS High School Douglas in Douglas, Arizona with teacher Sharon Christie and Research Fellow Ciara Garcia, PhD candidate in Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona.
  • Safford High School in Safford, Arizona with teacher Kami Downing and Research Fellow Jay Goldberg, Postdoctoral Researcher in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.
  • Sahuarita High School in Sahuarita, Arizona with teacher Gavin Lehr and Research Fellow Katherine Hovanes, Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona.
  • Willcox High School in Willcox, Arizona with teacher Ty White and Research Fellow Savannah Fuqua, PhD Student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.

Words From our Teachers and Research Fellows

“As a rural community on the border, there are limited opportunities for us to participate in STEM activities like those that SARSEF offer. Not only will my students learn a lot from this project, they’ll also be exposed to things that they wouldn’t normally encounter. I’m excited to work with a plant scientist and know this collaboration will have great impact in both Douglas and Agua Prieta.” -Sharon Christie, Teacher, CAS High School

“Microbes do a remarkable amount for plants, animals, and humans. We want to see how the microbes on local plants around Douglas impact plant growth. Students will choose plants they’re interested in so that they can see how science has relevance to the world around them.” -Ciara Garcia, Research Fellow, PhD candidate, Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona (paired with Sharon Christie)

“I chose to be part of the SARSEF program so that I can help my students actively take part in real and meaningful science research.” -Kami Downing, Teacher, Safford High School

“We’re going to have the students look at how diet impacts the growth of tobacco hornworms. The students will play an active role in deciding what interests them as the tobacco hornworms grow and change – from life cycle to behavior to size.” -Jay Goldberg, Research Fellow, Postdoctoral Researcher, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona (paired with Kami Downing)

“This is exactly what I’ve been wanting to do in my freshman-level science classes but with more support and connections to scientists than could have been possible without SARSEF’s new program. Even science topics that sound in the weeds can easily be connected to not only our day-to-day lives, but also real-world problems and challenges and how we can solve them. This project is no exception.”

“I’m confident that 95% of my students have not done science to the degree that this project allows for. They’ve never had the flexibility to start a project from scratch based on their own interest and curiosity. Because the project includes planting native plants in an area currently invaded by buffel grass, this is a resource that will create opportunity for students in all of my classes for years to come.” -Gavin Lehr, Teacher, Sahuarita High School

“We are installing a pollinator garden then having students investigate the relationship between the plants and the pollinators. We’re going to give students as much opportunity as possible to come up with their own questions in a diverse pollinator garden so that they can take ownership over their own research and get experience in developing their own projects just like professional scientists.” -Katherine Hovanes, Research Fellow, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona (paired with Gavin Lehr)

“I really believe in how research projects help students develop confidence and competence. Working with SARSEF to do a full-class project, I get to share that opportunity with a greater number of students. Any chance the students have to go out and DO science is going to be a win for all parties.” -Ty White, Teacher, Willcox High School

“The students are going to work on a project to understand soil dynamics. They’ll learn about above-ground and below-ground interactions between plants and soil as well as within the soil itself. While the students will be able to take ownership of developing the research questions they want to explore, many will have potential implications for local agriculture.” -Savannah Fuqua, Research Fellow, PhD Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona (paired with Ty White)

About SARSEF:

SARSEF was formed in 1955 in an effort to increase student interest in the field of science. The mission of SARSEF is to engage Arizona’s Pre-K-12 grade students in critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through inquiry-based learning and research.

SARSEF accomplishes this mission through a variety of programming including a high school mentoring program, the STAR Lab, SARSEF Fair Week, educational outreach programs with an emphasis on underrepresented populations in the sciences, teacher professional development, ACES Camp for Middle School girls, Racing the Sun, and Arizona STEM Adventure.

To learn more about SARSEF programs and how students, teachers, and families can get involved, visit sarsef.org

Media Contact

Yvonne Pysher, Director of Marketing and Communications

SARSEF

yvonne@sarsef.org

DOWNLOAD PDF OF DOUGLAS, AZ PRESS RELEASE

DOWNLOAD PDF OF SAFFORD, AZ PRESS RELEASE

DOWNLOAD PDF OF SAHUARITA, AZ PRESS RELEASE

DOWNLOAD PDF OF TUCSON, AZ PRESS RELEASE

DOWNLOAD PDF OF WILLCOX, AZ PRESS RELEASE

Camp Innovation

FREE Summer Day Camp for Middle School Students Interested in Exploring STEM!

¡Campamento de Verano GRATIS Para Estudiantes de Secundaria Interesados en Explorar STEM!

Click HERE to Register!

¡Haga Clic AQUÍ Para Registrar!

Let your child’s imagination run wild in SARSEF and Arizona Science Center’s week-long camp that will spark curiosity in science! Campers will engage in hands-on interactive programs and the opportunity to learn about future careers in STEM!

¡Deja volar la imaginación de su hijo en el campamento de una semana de SARSEF y el Centro de Ciencas de Arizona que despertará la curiosidad por la ciencia! ¡Los Campistas participarán en programas interactivos prácticos y tendrán la oportunidad de aprender sobre futuras carreras en STEM!

Space is limited. We will notify if registrants are selected or on the waitlist by Monday, July 18.

El espacio es limitado. Notificaremos si los solicitantes de registro son seleccionados o están en la lista de espera antes del lunes 18 de Julio.

From SARSEF to Next Generation Solutions, Global Issues in Healthcare and Climate Change

Meet Dr. Ahmed Badran, born in Germany, having lived in Egypt and moving to Tucson, Arizona, Dr. Badran was an incredibly gifted STEM student and excellent swimmer at Tucson High Magnet School (THMS). Knowing what a pipette and centrifuge was at 10 or 11 years old, Dr. Badran was exposed to a very diverse set of science and knew the hallmarks of molecular biology at a very young age.

His journey with SARSEF began when he was selected to represent Southern Arizona at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2006. Ahmed was bright beyond his years and was generous and humble in sharing his insights and knowledge of biology and chemistry with his teacher, Dr. Margaret Wilch, Ph.D, SARSEF’s Director of Research, and his classmates.

As a THMS student, Dr. Badran worked in the lab of Professor Indraneel (Neel) Ghosh, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Arizona. Upon graduating high school, he attended the University of Arizona where he continued his research in Dr. Ghosh’s lab until he graduated. Dr. Badran was awarded the prestigious Beckman Scholar award in 2008 as well as the top award as an undergraduate. He earned numerous other awards throughout his undergraduate and graduate school career.

Dr. Badran earned his B.Sc. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics and Molecular & Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. Subsequently, he earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from Harvard University under the guidance of Prof. David R. Liu, leading the development and application of rapid methods for continuous directed evolution. Following that, he is a Principal Investigator and Fellow of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where his lab is developing new technologies to reprogram protein translation. To learn more about Dr. Ahmed Badran’s lab at the Scripps Research Institute, click here.

To the left is Dr. Badrans team from the Badran Lab, located at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. They combine principles of chemical biology, bioengineering, directed evolution, genome editing and synthetic biology to (re)engineer highly integrated cellular signaling networks towards researcher-defined function. The Badran Lab is currently supported by the Scripps Research Institute, NIH Director’’s Early Independence Award, NASA, DTRA, and NIBIB.

Dr. Ahmed Badran was an incredible, bright, and humble student, who is now addressing issues of immediate global impact, namely antimicrobial development, biologics production, information maintenance and transmission, and climate change. We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Badran and learn more about his experience with SARSEF and STEM journey.

What was your relationship to science growing up?

I began interacting with science at a young age. My parents, both of whom are scientists, had a deep respect for their work and what science could teach us about the world around us. They instilled that passion in me from a young age: they spoke with pride about how they contributed to the sum of human knowledge, and discoveries that they made every day. Unsurprisingly, I wanted to be a pioneer like them, so I followed in their footsteps and became a scientist.

How did your interest in science develop?

I’ve always found science interesting. But some of my earliest fascinations came from astronomy. It was exciting to me that researchers could point telescopes up into the sky, watch how the stars and celestial bodies moved, and predict how they would behave years in the future with great accuracy. I remember first learning about the Pillars of Creation, a dense concentration of gas and dust more than 6000 light years away. The image was breathtaking. But I later learned that it no longer existed: since light from this formation takes over 6000 years to arrive to Earth, the gas and dust probably dissipated long ago. This duality of beauty and impermanence was key to my fascination with science.

What was the first project you presented at the SARSEF Fair?

My work at the SARSEF Fair was done in the Ghosh lab at the University of Arizona. It focused on creating sensors to quickly and accurately monitor how proteins interact with one another. My approach relied on using fluorescent proteins, which can be made in living cells and quantified easily. These sensors could detect so-called protein-protein interactions and in doing so would change the fluorescent output of the system. By measuring this change, I could quantify the of the protein-protein interaction.

Can you talk more about the research you completed in high school?

My work during SARSEF got me excited about making sensors for other biological activities. Just as proteins interact with one another, they can also interact with blueprints of information in cells: DNA and RNA. I became interested in using proteins that naturally bind to specific DNA and RNA sequence, but instead using them to report of new or engineered sequences. This technique could then be applied to detect mutations in DNA or RNA, or even quantify damage that would happen in different environments or disease states.

What was it like being a Finalist at ISEF?

Being an ISEF Finalist was one of the most pivotal moments of my career. While at ISEF, I interacted with students from all over the country and the world, all of whom were engaged in research as high school students. But the most exciting element of ISEF was the diversity of science: mathematicians, chemists, biologists, physicists. And some students were even bridging gaps between fields to create hybrid fields. I was struck by the quality of all of their work and thrilled to interact with peers who valued and enjoyed science as much as I did.

How did you choose your career?

After SARSEF and ISEF, I was admitted to the University of Arizona as a biochemistry major, and continued my trajectory in studying proteins. Their diverse shapes and functions fascinated me. The more I learned about these molecular machines which are the workhorses of the cell, the more I began to think about modifying their functions or combing two or more existing activities into a single protein. So as an undergraduate, I explored different types of proteins and started to combine them in unique ways to create activities that may not exist in Nature. This field is called bioengineering, and the field with which I now most closely associate.

Talk a little bit about your current work.

My work now has changed quite a bit. My lab is interested in the most fundamental biological process that gives rise to proteins in cells: translation. This process is orchestrated by Nature’s most essential and complex machine, the ribosome. This machine decodes the patterns of bases in RNA to give rise of tens of thousands of unique proteins in our cells every day. But how exactly does it do this? And why does it translate the genetic code in the way that it does? If we can answer these questions, not only do we learn much about how natural biological systems achieve this important activity, but we can go a step further to create technologies to make artificial proteins with new activities. These could be useful to help us sense and respond to disease states, or perhaps even solve critical problems like climate change. My lab is excited about all of these topics, and we are actively working to address many of these important questions. 

Can you walk me through a typical day for you as an assistant professor?

As an assistant professor, most of my time is spent on the bench next to my students and postdocs. We plan and carry out experiment every day together. Beyond that, I spend a few hours every day working on manuscripts or grant applications, both of which are critical to academic science. Manuscripts are the way by which we share our findings with the world, and tell them about the exciting innovations we’ve made. Grants, on the other hand, are laboratory funds that are graciously given to us by our funding agencies to support our work.

What advice do you have for students currently considering a career in science?

There are many different types of science out there, and it can be difficult to know which one is the right one for you. Explore different avenues until you find something that you really enjoy. It may take longer to find, but it’s a much more worthwhile investment than doing something you don’t enjoy.

What do you do for fun?

When I’m not doing science or mentoring students, I like to play a lot of sports outdoors like soccer and swimming. I’ve also recently started hiking and got into amateur astronomy.

Thank you Dr. Ahmed Bedran for your interview, insight, and knowledge you bring to the world of science! Motivated by passion and curiosity, your research has truly made a difference in addressing issues of immediate global impact for a better tomorrow.

If you would like to know more about SARSEF and how you can become engaged in STEM, volunteer for our organization, or donate, visit us at (https://sarsef.org/)

2022 Racing the Sun Winners

Congratulations to all the teams who participated in this year’s Racing the Sun (RTS), an engineering program that challenges high school students to design, build, and race solar-powered go-karts.

Working with teachers and mentors, students spent nine months preparing for Race Day. Along the way, they applied physics, engineering, and energy. They solved real-world problems, using mathematical, analytical, and critical thinking skills, and worked in teams to collaborate on ideas. They were all challenged to translate their ideas into a working prototype, and along the way, they built leadership skills!

Participating Schools: Blue Ridge High School, Center for Academic Success, Mica Mountain High School, Peoria High School, Salpointe Catholic High School, Shadow Ridge High School, Sonoran Science Academy, Tanque Verde High School, Tucson High Magnet High School, and Wilcox High School.

Racing the Sun Results

Grand Champion (Legacy)

Center for Academic Success: Apollo’s Chariot

Grand Champion (Maker)

Shadow Ridge High School: Solar Stallions

Innovation (Legacy)

Salpointe Catholic High School: Salpointe Legacy

Innovation (Maker)

First: Tucson High Magnet School: Mecha Badgers

Second: Blue Ridge High School: Blue Ridge

Engineering Tenacity Award

Mica Mountain High School: MMHS Racing the Sun

Oral Presentations

First: Shadow Ridge High School: Solar Stallions

First: Center for Academic Success: Bear Metal

Second: Salpointe Catholic High School: Salpointe Maker

Bending the Rules

Sonoran Science Academy- Davis Monthan: Chaos Cerberus

Spirit Award

Center for Academic Success: Bear Metal

Coach of the Year

Eric Bennett with Shadow Ridge High School

SARSEF Students Tour Sonora Quest Laboratories

SARSEF joined Sonora Quest Laboratories in celebrating National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (April 24-30) to foster awareness and engagement in the laboratory and phlebotomy industries. Sonora Quest Laboratories is an incredible partner, supporting SARSEF’s next generation of critical thinkers through our programs and offering opportunities to countless Arizona students.

On April 26, 2022, a group of our SARSEF Fair participants and STAR Lab students toured our local Sonora Quest Laboratories in Tucson and learned more about career fields in health sciences.

Read the Arizona Daily Star Article about the tour

We had the opportunity to interview the group of students to learn more about their experience.

What was your favorite part of the tour?

Sophie Roth Gordon– “My favorite part of the tour was the chemistry labs.  I really didn’t think about what happened on the inside of the lab after I got my blood tests. There is so much interesting stuff that goes on to get my results! I really liked how hands-on it was and how you can involve yourself into knowing more about what’s going on.”

Jade Kuan- “My favorite part of the tour was learning about this whole field of health science I had never been exposed to. I’ve gotten my blood tested before, but never thought about what labs actually do with it so it was really exciting to see behind the scenes and learn more about the process!”

Juliet Ladevaia- “Seeing how much technology is used in the lab and how far the healthcare industry has come.”

Ella Lu Thompson- “The Microbiology area was my favorite because I enjoyed seeing the bacteria samples and how they work with those materials.”

What’s something unexpected you learned during the tour?

Sophie Roth Gordon- “Histology was something I didn’t expect or even know about. I was really surprised that something that important and that cool wasn’t advertised as a job. I also was very interested in the part of histology where you slice the sample to put it on a slide. This interests me because I really liked how artistic it feels to watch it get sliced.”

Jade Kuan- “Something unexpected I learned is that to analyze tissue samples, they can be embedded in paraffin wax blocks to make it easier to cut slices so they can be placed on microscopic slides.”

Hassan Lopez- “How much technology is incorporated in the lab. It was really cool how automated it is!”

Ella Lu Thompson- “I learned about Histology! I had no idea about any of that – like how they prepped the slides for doctors.”

What has SARSEF meant for you?

Sophie Roth Gordon- “SARSEF has meant working on projects and being able to understand more about the science behind things. It has also allowed me to find subjects that I really am interested in and can learn a lot more about them with my experiments.”

Jade Kuan- “SARSEF has been a way for me to explore my curiosity for the world while also helping people. I’ve explored so many questions I’ve had and learned so many new skills through my research, such as technical lab skills, but also scientific communication skills though presenting my projects to judges.”

Hassan Lopez- “SARSEF is an opportunity to show a passion that I have for science.”

Juliet Ladevaia- “SARSEF has given me an opportunity to learn and grow by potential for science. It a really good opportunity that can help me with my future so I am really excited about that.”

Max Casler: “SARSEF has meant a lot to me because I have been recognized for something I worked hard to do.”

Learn more about the students who toured Sonora Quest Laboratories and their Science Projects:

Jade Kuan, Grade 12

University High School, Tucson, AZ

Investigation of Retinal Energetics with Novel OPLS Force Fields Applied to a Full-Retinylidene System

Liam Superville, Grade 12

Tucson High Magnet High School, Tucson, AZ

Cockroaches on Caffeine: Behavioral analysis of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach(Gromphadorhina portentosa) after a long term Caffeine Supplemented Diet.

Daveena Biswas, Grade 11

BASIS Oro Valley, Oro Valley, AZ

Which treatments are most effective at improving cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients 50 years and older?

Sophie Roth Gordon, Grade 8

Orange Grove Middle School, Tucson, AZ

Investigating Biophilia: Do Plant or Water Images Reduce Stress?

Max Casler, Grade 7

L. W. Cross Middle School, Tucson, AZ

How Does Blood React to Different Temperatures of Water

Ella Lu Thompson, Grade 7

L. W. Cross Middle School, Tucson, AZ

Lysol Spray vs. Lysol Wipes Starring Money

Hassan Lopez, Grade 7

L. W. Cross Middle School, Tucson, AZ

MiscO3nceptions of Aqueous Ozone

Juliet Ladevaia, Grade 7

L. W. Cross Middle School, Tucson, AZ

Innovating Solar Panels to Remotely Send Solar Energy

Meet ISEF Finalists Selected at the SARSEF Fair

We were in awe of the incredible science and engineering projects that students from across Arizona completed this school year! If you haven’t had an opportunity to see them yet, be sure to visit virtualfair.sarsef.org.

SARSEF is one of three affiliated fairs in Arizona that selects the top high school projects at their Science and Engineering Fair to represent Arizona at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF). Projects from all over the world attend to compete at ISEF as the next generation of innovators!

At this year’s fair, eight high school students were selected to attend ISEF: Christopher Miranda (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Arjun Gupta (Quest for Education and Arts), Karah Mayer (Tanque Verde High School), Nathaniel van der Leeuw and Lily Wood (University High School), Alexander Nelson (Nelson Home School), Yaritza Durazo (Sunnyside High School), Ashley Valencia (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Julianna Serna-Ortiz (Harvest Preparatory Academy).

We had the opportunity to interview them recently to learn about their experiences in research and at the fair. Scroll to the bottom of this post to find the list of winners including links to their projects in our virtual exhibit hall!

What inspired you to do your research project?

Ashely Valencia: I have always felt drawn to the sciences and while in high school I found out about all the different science fairs. This year I wanted to do a project that not only could help my community, but the entire world. Furthermore, I hope to pursue a career in the field of medicine and I decided to look into world health problems. I found out that roughly 3.4 billion individuals worldwide, are affected by oral diseases, especially in third world countries. I wanted to research ways to prevent some of these diseases.

Alexander Nelson: I have studied plant sciences throughout my high school research, with a particular interest in how plants respond under unfavorable conditions.  After meeting my mentors Dr. Cedar Warman and Dr. Ravishankar Palanivelu through the STAR Lab, and learning about their research, I was fascinated and wanted to pursue research alongside their studies.

Lily Wood: I had the opportunity to learn MATLab last summer and I wanted a project that would allow me to use it. I was also interested in learning more about global warming, especially living here in Tucson where it is already hot.

Julianna Serna-Ortiz: The current solutions for plastic pollution, PLA and oxo-biodegradable plastics, are found to be inefficient since they require a special composting facility to biodegrade. In this project I am trying to create a new biodegradable plastic with anitmicrobial properties that can be greatly beneficial for the environment. 

What’s something unexpected you learned while doing your research?

Ashley Valencia: Oral diseases affect a despicable amount of people around the world. People should not be ashamed of their smile just because they lack the resources. That is why I decided to focus on this topic.

Alexander Nelson: This year, I studied in vitro pollen growth and in vivo flower measurements. Through the guidance of my mentors, I learned how to integrate my subsequent findings into meaningful analyses using coding languages. This was a new experience and I learned many valuable skills in the process.

Julianna Serna-Ortiz: Out of all the different things I learned through the process of my research, what surprised me the most was that I can make a plastic out of algae and corn! When I heard about this experiment, I really couldn’t believe it was possible to do such thing, and still, when people hear about my project they look at me confused which I think is so funny. 

What has ISEF meant for you?

Ashley Valencia: ISEF will be a wonderful opportunity and experience for me. ISEF opens up many opportunities that were not available to me without it. I am very excited to hear and see all of the amazing research projects everybody has done this year.

Alexander Nelson: Throughout my childhood, ISEF has been an icon of scientific excellence that I have strived to achieve.  In essence, ISEF was a microcosm of all my future goals all wrapped up in one week. My desire to attend ISEF spawned many of my projects, culminating in three finalist presentations throughout high school. I am immeasurably grateful to all those who have helped me make this dream a possibility.

Julianna Serna-Ortiz: Getting to attend ISEF is a massive privilege and honestly my biggest achievement in my life as of now. I couldn’t be more grateful to all the people who gave me the chance to participate in this magnificent event and let me represent the state of Arizona. All I can say is thank you to all the people of ISEF who work really hard to give us students this amazing privilege of getting to be there and participate! 

What words of advice or encouragement do you want to share with other student scientists?

Ashley Valencia: As a first-generation student I feel like I should do  something important with my life because my parents never had the opportunities and resources we have available to us now. I want my parents to feel proud of me. While doing this research project I have been given many fantastic opportunities, like scholarships, extracurriculars, experience, Traveling, etc. What I want to say is that you should do something you love doing and feel proud of. Dream Big. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it!

Alexander Nelson: Allow me to preface: doing ‘good science’ is difficult, requiring lots of critical thinking and hard work.  But, if you commit yourself to following the scientific process from start to finish, you are in for the ride of your life.  Nothing is as exhilarating as conducting your own scientific review, formulating hypotheses, and watching them come to life through your own research. It’s worth the commitment.

Julianna Serna-Ortiz: If you’re doing something that you truly passionately love and you really, but genuinely, think that you can change the world with your idea, I’d just say go for it an don’t be afraid of making mistakes because that is just a sign that you’re slowly getting there.  

ISEF Finalists Selected at the SARSEF Fair

Christopher Miranda, Grade 10

Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ

Exogeneous Niacin and Zeaxanthin Treatment to Increase the Stress Tolerance and Light Absorbance Capacity of Microalgae Chlorella Vulgaris Under an Engineered Martian Environment

Arjun Gupta, Grade 11

Quest for Education and Arts, Tucson, AZ

Nouveau-AI-Plastic-Degen: A novel approach using AI-based enzyme engineering to design New and Highly Efficient Marine Plastic Degrading Enzymes

Karah Mayer, Grade 12

Tanque Verde High School, Tucson, AZ

Rare Immune Cells Significantly Associated with Severe COVID-19 Cases

Nathaniel van der Leeuw and Lily Wood, Grade 11

University High School, Tucson, AZ

Contemporary and Projected Climate Changes across the Southwestern United States Relative to the Last 24,000 Years

Alexander Nelson, Grade 12

Nelson Home School, Tucson, AZ

Analysis of Pollen-pistil Interactions to Model Reproductive Thermotolerance in Tomato

Yaritza Durazo, Grade 12

Sunnyside High School, Tucson, AZ

Exploration of Chaotic Orbits Using the Lyapunov Exponent in the Restricted Three-Body Problem

Ashley Valencia, Grade 10

Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ

Improving the Dental Health in Developing Countries with a Toothpaste Infused with Psidium Guajava and Acmella Oleracea Extracts Against Tooth Decay Causing Bacteria Streptococcus Mutans

Julianna Serna-Ortiz, Grade 10

Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ

Engineering of Antimicrobial Bioplastics From Invasive Algae Caulerpa Prolifera, Undaria Pinnatifida, and Waste Corn Cobs

Interested in supporting SARSEF and our work creating Arizona’s future critical thinkers and problem solvers through science and engineering?

Click Here to Visit SARSEF’s Donation Page

Meet the 2022 Winners of the Arizona Regional JSHS

Congratulations to all students who participated in this year’s Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), a competition hosted by SARSEF promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the high school level.

The JSHS Program is a national competition promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the high school level and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. It is a collaborative effort between the research arm of the Department of Defense (DoD) and nationwide academic research institutions and is administered by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA).

Five students will continue on to compete at the National JSHS competition: Baochan Fan (Hamilton High School), Shreya Sreekantham (BASIS Chandler), Calista Wilk (BASIS Scottsdale), Prisha Shroff (Hamilton High School), Savannah Botello (Cibola High School), and Saptarshi Mallick (University High School) is this year’s alternate.

We recently interviewed our AZ JSHS winners to learn more about them and their work.

What words of advice or encouragement do you want to share with other Students?

Shreya Sreekantham: Try your best, and don’t worry about the results! It’s totally ok to make a mistake, or a hundred. The more challenges you overcome, the more you learn. And if you’re feeling stuck, don’t ever hesitate to reach out to other people! You gain so much from interacting with your peers, mentors, and other scientists. I know it’s intimidating when you feel new or inexperienced, but keep in mind that everyone once started the same way. People are more willing to help than you might think, and your next amazing mentor could just be an email away.

Savannah Botello: Even if you doubt yourself or the value of your research, you should always put yourself out there because you truly never know what could happen or the people you could meet.

Baochan Fan: My number one advice would be that if you have a passion for science and research, I would recommend finding research opportunities and joining science fairs/conferences to further expand that interest, regardless of whether it is writing computer codes or conducting hands-on research in labs. I always had a passion for biology, and one of the best decisions I made in high school was applying to laboratory internship opportunities. Through these opportunities, I have enjoyed applying my knowledge in biology to solving real-world issues through research. Immersing myself in research has further developed my interest in biology and has made me more determined to pursue a career in medicine, so I would definitely recommend finding internship/lab working opportunities based on your interests.

Prisha Shroff: Be curious, dream big and never give up! Don’t just hope it happens, you should strive to make it happen!

What has JSHS meant for you?

Calista Wilk: JSHS provided an opportunity for me to experience what a symposium is like and how it feels to participate as a scientific researcher. The breadth and depth of ideas and projects inspired me, and I especially enjoyed meeting and learning from peers who shared a similar passion for science. I think that having this experience and forming these relationships are key to introducing us to new ways of approaching a problem, to encouraging us to continue challenging our skill sets, and to expanding our development as individuals.

Prisha Shroff: JSHS has been an opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true. Everything that I got to experience in JSHS has changed my perspective and opened my eyes to the science world. The first day, I was able to tour the science labs and meet with professors conducting research in biotechnology. This was the first time I had seen an actual lab and got to do a little bit of research with the professors. I was also given the opportunity to network with professors and I was exposed to the different careers and fields in STEM. Then, I was given the opportunity to present the research that I was working on and share it with others. This was a new experience for me and I was glad to hear the questions and comments about my research. But what I really loved was meeting other like-minded peers with a passion and drive for STEM. All of the research that they were doing was amazing, and I got to see applications of STEM in so many different fields.

Shreya Sreekantham: JSHS was an incredible experience! After two years of only seeing people online, I loved being able to connect with researchers, judges, and other students. This was actually my first time participating in a research symposium, and I wish I had done this sooner. I learned so much just from watching other presenters! If you’re interested in research, I would really recommend participating in or attending these kinds of events.

Is there anyone you want to thank who helped you get to JSHS?

Savannah Botello: I’d like to thank my AP Environmental teacher Ms. Garcia and my parents for supporting me throughout the year.

Baochan Fan: First, I would like to thank my research partner, Sanvi Lamba. Ever since Sanvi and I initiated and developed our research idea, we have spent countless hours working in the lab, searching literature, and meeting together to discuss how to improve our face mask design, from multiple days after school to long hours on the weekends. Furthermore, I am extremely grateful for all of the support and advice our mentors provided to us, as we joined the lab group with no previous experience on how to create nanoparticles, set up breathability tests, or to conduct antimicrobial assays. Our mentors took the time to teach us the methods and assays to test for the properties and functions of our mask design, shared their previous research experiences whenever we were stuck on how to approach refining our experimental groups when a null result appeared, and spent countless hours supervising us while we worked in the lab. Finally, I really appreciate my parents for supporting my passion to pursue an interest in biological research. My parents were and still are willing to constantly drive me to and from the lab so that I can conduct hands-on research.

Calista Wilk: I would like to thank my mentor Professor, Peide Ye, at Purdue University for his positive and enthusiastic support throughout my project. The time he spent listening to my ideas and answering my questions provided me with the confidence to conduct my own research and to present my findings. I would also like to thank Professor, Muhammad Alam, at Purdue University for meeting with me when I had questions about the theory and operation of solar cells. I am extremely grateful for Ms. Natasha Proctor at BASIS Scottsdale, who has been my physics teacher for two years and has always supported all my endeavors in physics, including reviewing my work for JSHS. Dr. Margaret Wilch at SARSEF answered any questions I had throughout the process, which I greatly appreciated. Lastly, I would like to thank my family for cheering me on and listening to my presentation over and over, again and again.

Interested in supporting SARSEF and our work creating Arizona’s future critical thinkers and problem solvers through science and engineering?

Click Here to Visit SARSEF’s Donation Page

2022 JSHS Winners

Congratulations to all students who participated in this year’s Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), a competition hosted by SARSEF promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the high school level.

The JSHS Program is a national competition promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the high school level and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. It is a collaborative effort between the research arm of the Department of Defense (DoD) and nationwide academic research institutions and is administered by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA).

The following students will be advancing to the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium:

1st Place: Baochan Fan

School: Hamilton High School

Mentor: Dr. Shu Wang

Self Disinfecting High Performance Face Mask Based on Biomaterial Coated Nanofibers

2nd Place: Shreya Skreekantham

School: BASIS Chandler

Mentor: Dr. Avani Wildani

Evaluation of Gender’s Effect in Predicting Parkinson’s Disease from Voice Recordings: A Random Forest Approach

3rd Place: Calista Wilk

BASIS Scottsdale

Mentor: Peide Ye

Replacing Gallinium Arsenide in Space Solar Cells with 2-D Materials in a Novel 7-Junction Configuration

4th Place: Prisha Shroff

Hamilton High School

Teacher: Debbie Nipar

Ai-Based Wildfire Prevention, Detection, and Suppression System

5th Place: Savannah Botello

Cibola High School

Teacher: Patricia Garcia

Comparison of Struvite and Chlorella Vulgaris Solution to Phosphorus Water Pollution

Alternate: Saptarshi Mallick

University High School

Mentor: Yana Zavros

Hedgehog Signaling Mediates the Dysregulation of Adrenocorticotropin Hormone Secretion and Somatostatin Receptor Expression in Cushing’s Disease

2022 Arizona JSHS Digital Abstract Booklet

Press Release: Arizona Students Awarded Over $100,000 in Scholarships, Prizes, and Awards at SARSEF Fair in March!

March 24, 2022

DOWNLOAD PDF OF PRESS RELEASE

(Tucson, AZ) In March, SARSEF held their 67th Annual Regional Science and Engineering Fair in conjunction with hosting a Community STEM Expo. The fair provided students the opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for their work in science and engineering. Many received cash prizes for their achievements.

The SARSEF Fair showcased the work of 6,557 students and 1,535 projects from over 120 schools, pre-kindergarten through high school, from all over Arizona. Over $100,000 in awards and scholarships were given out to students as well as teachers who went above and beyond to support their students’ work.

“SARSEF taught me that your own hard work does indeed pay off. Even though you might doubt yourself or wish that you picked an easier project, you must remember that hard work is the basis of society. Without carefully analyzing your code or making faulty predictions, you run the risk of building an unstable foundation for humanity. By participating in the Science Fair you are not guaranteed to win but you are guaranteed an opportunity to compete on a fair plain with all of Southern Arizona,” shared SARSEF Winner Nathaniel van der Leeuw from University High School.”

261 volunteer judges determined the grand awards, volunteering over 3,300 hours of their time. Judges reviewed projects and interviewed students to determine who will win a prize.

Yaritza Durazo, who attends Sunnyside High School, identified ways to make space mission designs more effective. She was excited to have had the opportunity to present her research and is excited to continue and explore her scientific journey.

“My favorite part about SARSEF was learning something new in science and being able to present the outcome of my research. Before, I thought science was mostly about getting results and drawing conclusions from them, but I quickly learned that science communication is a huge part of the scientific process. I had fun learning how to code, reading scientific papers, and presenting my research. I am excited to continue my scientific journey, wherever it takes me.”

A total of 457 Sponsored Awards were given to students. These awards are contributed by individuals or organizations within the community and nationally, supporting and encouraging students to become future leaders and believe in themselves. For example, Finnegan McGill, who attends Emily Gray Junior High, won the Coding with Commitment Sponsored Award given by Broadcom Foundation. The award included public recognition by the foundation, a $250 gift certificate, and a Raspberry Pi Foundation Official RP 400 Personal Computer Kit.

Eight students will continue on to compete at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering fair (ISEF): Christopher Miranda (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Karah Mayer (Tanque Verde High School), Alexander Nelson (Nelson Home School), Yaritza Durazo (Sunnyside High School), Ashley Valencia (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Julianna Serna-Ortiz (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Nathaniel van der Leeuw and Lily Wood (University High School), and Arjun Gupta (Quest for Education and Arts).

Visit the Virtual Fair and review projects in the exhibit hall: https://virtualfair.sarsef.org/exhibit-hall/

View the 2022 Awards List: https://sarsef.org/2022-sarsef-fair-winners-2/

About SARSEF:

SARSEF was formed in 1955 in an effort to increase student interest in the field of science. The mission of SARSEF is to teach Arizona’s Pre-K-12 grade students critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through inquiry-based learning and research.

SARSEF accomplishes this mission through a variety of programming including SARSEF Fair Week, educational outreach programs with an emphasis on underrepresented populations in the sciences, teacher professional development, ACES Camp for Middle School girls, Racing the Sun, and Arizona STEM Adventure.

To learn more about SARSEF programs and how students, teachers, and families can get involved, visit sarsef.org

Media Contact:

Yvonne Pysher, Director of Marketing and Communications

SARSEF

yvonne@sarsef.org