Every child. Thinking critically. Solving problems.


SARSEF Fair award winners have been announced!

See the winner list
Published Thursday April 1, 2021

Meet ISEF Finalists Selected at the SARSEF Fair

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

At this year’s fair, eight high school students were selected to attend Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF).

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 was it like competing in a virtual fair?

Alexander C Nelson: On a “normal” year, I spend the week prior to SARSEF rushing back and forth to the poster print shop making final touches to my research project, in preparation for the competition.  This year, with the presentations being virtual and the upload deadline being earlier, I felt much less stress upon entering the “showroom.”  As much as I wish we could present live, SARSEF did a fantastic job using a virtual platform to make an exciting fair experience.


Andrea Romero works on her project which investigated if Mesquite leave extract could lower the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, S. lutea and S. epidermidis when mixed with different types of antibiotics.

Andrea Romero: The judges were so friendly and nice to talk to. I felt a lot of confidence and enjoyed having the meeting with them.


Isabel Ross: This SARSEF Fair was definitely very different because it was all remote. I had minor technical difficulties, but I found the online platform to be very useful and effective. I also researched a project that is much more sophisticated than anything I’ve done before. I participated in the KEYS Program and STAR Lab at the University of Arizona, which allowed me to join a research lab at the UA. I worked with a mentor for the first time, which was an exciting experience, and I also wrote a research paper for the first time.


Please share your favorite part of working on your project.

Amanda R Whalen: My favorite part was actually the challenge. For the first time in my life, I constructed something without any help, which is out of my comfort zone, and I succeeded in creating something at least semi-functional. I cannot describe the joy that brought me. To top it all, my hypothesis was confirmed. I felt like a scientist and an engineer, and I felt hopeful for my future in STEM.

Aaron Trinh: My favorite part of this project is that even though my results proved that my hypothesis was incorrect, I did not take this discouragingly. I wanted to find out why I was wrong and what concepts or possible topics that I had missed. I ended up being able to develop a theory as to why some of my experiments had come out with unintended results, and to me, this was the most fulfilling and memorable moment of my project.

Ethan Lee fabricated a scaffold cuff model to be used in tissue engineering for an implantable organ.

Esha Mathur: My favorite part of this project is how it can be used to promote green initiatives.

Karah Mayer: My favorite part of this project was being able to learn something new and continue my research.  Although it was difficult, working in the programming language R was rewarding and fascinating. Having the opportunity to further explore questions I had after my project last year was amazing, and I enjoyed exploring bioinformatics.

How will you be preparing for ISEF?

Ethan Lee: I will be learning more about the future applications of my project, and the impact it will have on the field of tissue engineering and organ transplantation. Also, I will continue to shadow other members of the lab to assist them on their projects and learn about science.

Thank you, finalists, for taking the time to share more about your experiences. Good luck at Regeneron ISEF!


ISEF Finalists Selected at the SARSEF Fair

Aaron Trinh, Grade 12

Canyon del Oro High School, Tucson, AZ

The Feasibility of the Extraction of (2E)-3-phenylprop-2-enal from Cinnamomum cassia Bark Using Water and Aqueous Ethanol as Solvents in Distillation


Alexander C Nelson, Grade 11

Nelson Home School, Tucson, AZ

mRNA Sequence Analysis to Determine Genes Causing Unilateral Incompatibility in S. lycopersicum and S. pennellii


Amanda R Whalen, Grade 12

Veritas Christian Community School, Sierra Vista, AZ

Making a Saguaro H.A.W.T.


Andrea Romero, Grade 10

Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ

Let’s Fight Bac(teria)! Effects of Prosopis glandulosa (Mesquite) leaves Extract on Lowering the Antibiotic Resistance of Escherichia coli, Sarcina lutea, and Staphylococcus Epidermidis


Esha Mathur, Grade 12

University High School, Tucson, AZ

Prophages Within Symbiotic and Free-Living Terrestrial Cyanobacteria


Ethan Lee, Grade 12

University High School, Tucson, AZ

Fabrication of a Bioprinted Scaffold Cuff: Implications for Tissue Engineering of an Implantable Organ


Isabel Ross, Grade 11

Cienega High School, Vail, AZ

Green Infrastructure Impacts on Carbon Cycling: Evaluating Changes in Soil Microbial Composition and Function


Karah Mayer, Grade 11

Tanque Verde High School, Tucson, AZ

In Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Patient Tissue, UG Rich RNA Is Not Preferentially Soluble as Predicted


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