On Feb. 17, MIT hosted some of the nation’s most talented high school student researchers for a “Breakfast with Scientists” at the American Junior Academy of Science (AJAS) conference, held in conjunction with the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.
The breakfast was a unique opportunity for students to receive advice and encouragement from scientists working at the top of their fields, among them Nobel Prize laureates such as Phillip Sharp and Bob Horvitz, both professors in the MIT Department of Biology. In total, 14 MIT faculty members attended, along with distinguished faculty from other universities, pharmaceutical and biotechnology leaders and inventors, and the editor-in-chief of Science magazine, Jeremy Berg. Discussions ranged in topic from what it means to be a scientist today to career paths to fundamental research.
“Speaking with someone who is passionate about something you are doing and are in awe of what you have done is an eye-opening and amazing experience,” said Chase Bishop, a delegate from North Carolina. “The tour of MIT was also very cool. I got to see things that I have seen on science shows, but I was right next to the people who had done it. I’ll definitely be sending my application there.”
This year, 124 students were selected to attend AJAS based on their outstanding research, which they presented at competitions such as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, research symposia, and the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair, hosted by MIT.
Although many of the students conducted their research at home without access to state-of-the-art tools and techniques found in laboratories, their understanding of the scientific method and its applications is sophisticated.
“I sat next to an eighth-grader from Massachusetts who blew my socks off in his efforts to recycle trash into something useful,” said Joanne Stubbe, a National Science Medalist and Novartis Professor Emerita in the MIT Department of Chemistry. “He was amazingly articulate, clearly loved science, and understood its translational importance.”
Sponsored by the School of Science, the School of Engineering, and the School of Architecture and Planning, the event is part of a long tradition at MIT of supporting promising young researchers early on.
"They are a remarkable group of young people, with great energy, insights, and varied interests,” said Ian A. Waitz, dean of engineering at MIT. "With so many challenges in the world and so much to be discovered, it is inspiring to know that many of them will be future leaders in science and technology.”