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  • Christy George, LMFT

What I Learned From Being a Judge at Regeneron ISEF 2023

Woman standing in front of an ISEF sign
Judge at ISEF,

As a licensed therapist specializing in working with gifted children and adults, as well as a trauma specialist, I have had the privilege of witnessing the remarkable potential and resilience of young minds. Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to serve as a judge at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), specifically in the category of Behavioral Science. This experience reminded me of the extraordinary abilities and dedication of innovative teenagers from all over the world. I'm so excited to share my reflections on this memorable event and the valuable lessons I learned along the way.

More About ISEF

If you don't already know, the International Science and Engineering Fair is the world's largest pre-college science competition, held once a year in a different city. It brings together young scientists and inventors from various countries. These bright minds compete in a range of scientific categories, showcasing their research projects and discoveries. ISEF is a platform that fosters scientific curiosity, creativity, and collaboration, encouraging young individuals to pursue their passion for science and engineering. This year, 1300 teens from 31 countries (including the United States) qualified to compete after winning top prizes at their local, regional and national science fairs. Approximately, 10 million, nineth through twelfth graders, worldwide vied for this opportunity.

One of the most striking aspects of ISEF was witnessing the immense talent, ingenuity, and dedication displayed by the participating teenagers. The level of sophistication and complexity in their research projects was truly astounding. From analyzing human behavior to exploring cutting-edge technologies, these young scientists and engineers delved into pressing issues and sought innovative solutions, often inspired by their own personal stories and concerns.

STEM display at ISEF Regeneron

The passion that these bright minds displayed was infectious. Their enthusiasm for their chosen fields of study was evident in the depth of their research and the eloquence with which they presented their findings. It was truly inspiring to witness the impact of their hard work, as they explored new frontiers and proposed meaningful solutions to real-world problems.

ISEF truly lives up to its name, attracting participants from various places around the world. Connecting with these brilliant, young minds from diverse backgrounds and cultures was an enriching experience. It highlighted the power of science to transcend boundaries and unite individuals in a common pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

Engaging with these interesting and gifted, young people, showed me how people can be united through scientific inquiry, even when their backgrounds are very different. I saw many responsible, people who cared about the same things, and wanted to make a difference in the world. Their projects tackled a wide range of topics, reflecting the unique challenges and opportunities present in their respective countries and globally. This international collaboration and exchange of ideas fostered an atmosphere of learning and mutual respect, showcasing the potential for scientific breakthroughs when minds from different cultures come together.

Serving as a judge at ISEF was profoundly rewarding on both a personal and professional level. Witnessing the impressive abilities of these young scientists left me with a renewed sense of hope for the future. The intelligence, tenacity, and determination displayed by these teenagers was impressive.

Moreover, I couldn't help but reflect on my own journey and the missed opportunities I experienced during my formative years. I grew up during a time when the internet didn't exsist and the opportnity to find out about science fairs like this was dependent on chance. I wished I had been exposed to such a remarkable platform that nurtures curiosity and encourages young minds to push the boundaries of their knowledge. The dedication and hard work of these teenagers served as a reminder of the incredible potential that lies within every young person, given the right opportunities and support.

Microscopes and chess and ISEF 2023

Empowering Your Gifted Child or Teen:

If you have a gifted child or teen who shares a passion for science and innovation, I highly encourage you to explore the opportunities available through local science fairs. These fairs not only provide a chance for your child to showcase their research but also serve as a stepping stone to qualify for prestigious competitions like ISEF or the Thermo Fisher Junior Inovators Challenge (previously known as Broadcom Masters) for elementary and middle school students.

Participating in these competitions opens doors to scholarships and prizes, allowing your gifted child to further their education and pursue their dreams. Furthermore, these events provide unique opportunities to connect with colleges and businesses, creating networks and fostering mentorship opportunities.

Beyond the tangible benefits, these competitions offer a chance for your gifted child or teen to connect with like-minded peers who share their curiosity and drive. It's a space where they can be treated with respect and receive feedback from industry and academic professionals, further fueling their passion and growth.

Suffice to say, serving as a judge at ISEF was an incredible experience that reaffirmed my belief in the immense potential of gifted children and teens. The dedication, intelligence, and passion displayed by these young scientists from around the world were awe-inspiring. Now I'm inspired to judge at the local science and engineering fairs, as well as ISEF again. Participating in local science fairs and qualifying for prestigious competitions like ISEF can provide your gifted child or teen with transformative experiences, opportunities for growth, and a platform to showcase their talent.

By nurturing their passion for science and providing them with the right support and resources, we can empower gifted young minds to make significant contributions to their fields of interest and shape a brighter future for us all. So, encourage and support your gifted child or teen as they explore their scientific curiosity and dream big – the possibilities are truly limitless. Here are some links for more STEM resources as well as liberal and fine arts opportunities.

Butterflu sitting on a rock meditating
Zen Butterfly

About the Author:

Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She has nearly 15 years of experrience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.


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