High school scientists find inspiration from family, friends, and community

When tackling a science fair project, the support system around us, including family, teachers, friends, and community members, can provide valuable guidance and inspiration. Several finalists in the 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) drew their project ideas from these sources.

The STS competition, designed for high school seniors and organized by Society for Science, offers a platform for 40 finalists to showcase their research in Washington, D.C. and compete for over $1.8 million in awards. In interviews with Science News Explores, three finalists shared insights on their project origins, the resources that aided them, and the significance of their scientific pursuits.

Charisse Zou

Exploring the impact of common pest-killing chemicals on honeybees, 17-year-old Charisse created mazes in her backyard to observe bee memory. The study revealed adverse effects on both medium- and long-term bee memory from different insecticides. Charisse, a student at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, Calif., hopes her findings will raise awareness about the potential harm to honeybees from these chemicals.

Charisse Zou (pictured) delved into the impact of pest-killing chemicals on honeybees, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing honeybee preservation through her research efforts.Charisse Zou

What motivated your project?

“It was a fortuitous encounter at a local flea market where I stumbled upon a vendor selling homegrown honey. This encounter sparked my curiosity and led me to delve deeper into the effects of pesticides on honeybees,” Charisse explained, highlighting her journey from beekeeping workshops to scientific inquiry.

What was the most rewarding aspect for you?

“Directly engaging with the bees was a transformative experience. Despite initial hesitations, beekeeping became a cherished routine, nurturing a lifelong passion for environmental preservation and beekeeping,” Charisse shared, reflecting on her profound connection to beekeeping.

Which resources aided your research?

“Extensive literature review of past research papers provided invaluable insights as an independent researcher,” Charisse stated. Delving into research with limited mentorship, her commitment to rigorous scientific methods and resourceful experimentation drove meaningful outcomes.

Any advice for aspiring researchers?

“Believe in the power of innovation rooted in simplicity and perseverance. Hands-on experimentation, even with basic materials like recycled items, can yield impactful findings,” Charisse advised aspiring researchers, emphasizing the potential for groundbreaking research with determination and creativity.

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