ISEF: Not Your Average High School Science Fair

ISEF Resize Better

Imagine the smartest, most driven highschooler you’ve ever met. Now imagine walking into a giant room and being faced with 1,750 of them, each one an expert in their own niche STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field and buzzing to share their research with you. That’s what it’s like to enter the presentation hall of the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair

In early May, NAVS attended ISEF—the world’s largest high school science competition—and, for the first time in two years, we were able to meet the students in person! Traveling to the sunny city of Atlanta, GA, the NAVS judging team interviewed student finalists working with non-animal research models to determine who would win our 20th annual Humane Science Award, an honor that comes with a serious cash prize to support some seriously cool science! 

Featuring 1,410 exhibits presented by finalists from 63 different countries, ISEF is a showcase of the science world’s brightest rising stars. From climate change to cancer, these teenagers are already working to solve the planet’s most complicated problems—problems that don’t seem so insurmountable with such brilliant young people on the job.

One arena in particular where students are making their mark is in the development of research techniques that do not require the use of animals. Set in their mission of choosing this year’s winners of the Humane Science Award, the NAVS team had the privilege of interviewing students from across the globe, each one working with non-animal research models.

For some students, this meant creating an artificial intelligence (AI) network capable of pairing previously developed drugs with novel diseases. Other students worked on developing more efficient ways of growing human stem cells, which can be used to test treatments specific to an individual patient. On one thing the award candidates all agreed: the animal model is no longer the most effective research tool available to scientists. 

At Regeneron ISEF, the kids are bright and the stakes are high. Every year that NAVS attends, it becomes more difficult to choose our winners because the number of students working with non-animal models continues to grow, and each project seems more impressive than the last.

So which finalists walked away with a NAVS Humane Science Award and $10,000, $5,000, and $2,500 prizes? We’ll announce—and meet—the winners in next month’s “NAVS News.”