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Meet the 2021 Winners of the Arizona Regional JSHS

For the first year, SARSEF hosted the Arizona Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (AZ JSHS). The program is a competition promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math at the high school level and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. This year, the event included 55 oral presenters and 12 poster presenters from across the state. $9,725 in awards and scholarships were given out to students who won top prizes at the virtual event as determined by 21 volunteer judges.

Five students will continue on to compete at the National JSHS competition: Ella Wang (BASIS Chandler), Arun Moorthy (BASIS Scottsdale), Samira Nassi Celaya (Tucson High Magnet School), Megan Bime (Catalina Foothills High School), and Isabel Ross (Cienega High School). Michelle Sheikh (Arizona College Preparatory Erie) 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 student scientists?

Megan Bime: My advice would be that it’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes in science and be open to learning from those around you. To me, science is like a rollercoaster. There will be high points when you feel like you’re making tons of progress, and other moments when you know you could do better. But in the end, science is something you will always look back on as a rewarding and fun experience.

Arun Moorthy shared that he earned a lot about himself as a person while doing his research. “After I started learning about quantum computing, I did not realize that I could be so interested in a specific field. Before, I did not think of learning as something that is fun, but rather something that is necessary. However, now my entire perspective on research and learning has shifted, which is a great thing in my opinion.”

Arun Moorthy: Never give up. When you are doing research, roadblocks are part of the journey. When you hit one, you should know that everyone else is hitting their own roadblocks. Once you hit a challenge, the next step is to find a creative way to overcome it. Oftentimes the creative way turns out to be the best way.  The only way to “fail” in science is to give up when you hit a challenge before you have exhausted all ways to solve it.

Michelle Sheikh: Always choose a topic you are passionate about and manage your time in order to put your best effort into making your project. Don’t be afraid to repeat an experiment or try out a new protocol. Results don’t happen overnight!

Ella Wang: Go for it! If you have something you’re passionate about, just go out there and do it! It might seem scary or difficult to undertake a research project, but the truth is, research is simply exploring your interests at a deeper level, and along the way, you’ll find that you learn so much from the experience. Whether it’s in a lab or in your basement, research can begin anywhere, so don’t limit yourself and dream big. If you ever feel lost or aren’t sure where to start, don’t hesitate to reach out to peers, teachers, or mentors – they are your friends and will always be there to help you, and you will make some of the closest connections through science.

What has JSHS meant for you?

Samira Nassi Celaya: JSHS to me is a challenge that can encourage me to enhance my presentation skills. Completing a project is entirely a different endeavor than explaining it. It’s difficult to explain months of work in just a few minutes, but it was accomplished for JSHS!

Isabel Ross: JSHS has meant a lot to me. I’ve pretty much always had a passion for science, but I never thought I stood out among my fellow student scientists. JSHS really opened my eyes to the possibilities of research, especially student research, and provided me with many opportunities that I would have never known were out there.

Ella Wang: This is my second year participating in JSHS, and second time attending Nationals (virtually)! The amount of knowledge, experience, and friendships I’ve built through the program has been incredible and invaluable. As a competition, JSHS has helped me prepare for research conferences and hone skills in science communication through its oral/poster presentation and interview format, and I’ve learned so much through talking with judges and other students. JSHS is a unique opportunity to share my research with a larger scientific community, and I would really encourage any students who are interested in research to take part in it!

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

Megan Bime holds her Arizona JSHS trophy

Megan Bime: I would like to thank my parents for all the support they have given me, as well as my Biotechnology teacher Ms.Tiffanie Bialis, the STAR Labs director Margaret Wilch, Isabella Constantine, Amanda Ruela, and my mentors Dr. Frank Duca and Rachel Meyer. Ms.Bialis has been a key part of my support system and was always so understanding in regards to scheduling and providing assistance for my project. Lastly, Dr.Frank Duca and Rachel Meyer from the University of Arizona were wonderful mentors, and my project would not have come about without their help and guidance. I greatly appreciate everyone!

Samira Nassi Celaya: I thank my mentor Dr. Warman for his extensive guidance in the application of bioinformatics. I also thank Dr. Palanivelu for sponsoring and providing further insights for comprehension of topics.

Arun Moorthy: In science, nothing can be done alone. I have so many people to thank for my success with this project. First, I would like to thank my parents who played a pivotal role in helping me with anything I need. Sometimes, when I felt a roadblock was too difficult for me to overcome, I looked to them for tips on how to take a challenge one step at a time. Next, I would like to thank my mentor who has spent countless hours devoted to my project and helping me whenever I needed him. He has done a great job balancing his university life and my project, so I appreciate him for that. I would also like to thank my computer science teacher in school who has always helped me in and out of school. Teachers do not need to help their students outside of school, but her help is always appreciated. Lastly, I want to thank the Arizona JSHS staff and judges for making it easy for all participants to present their research. They have always been supportive, and I am confident that their relaxed and nice behavior will not change.

Isabel Ross: I would like to send a huge thank you to my mentor, Dr. Vanessa Buzzard, along with the rest of the Meredith lab, my parents, my science teacher Mrs. Baker, and Dr. Margaret Wilch for allowing me to be a part of such amazing programs as STAR lab and JSHS.

Michelle Sheikh: I would like to thank my mentor Rebecca Jernigan and my teacher Ms. Nath as well my family for all their support.

Ella Wang: Huge thank you to my mentor Dr. Espanol from ASU and teacher Mr. Bostaph for providing feedback and guidance on my project throughout the year, as well as always being there to lend a helping hand and share the kind of advice people with double the life experience I have tend to do! Thank you to my parents for letting me turn my room into a (very messy) makeshift lab and (temporarily?) wreck my computer with huge datasets <3

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