NAVS Judges Select Extraordinary Students for Humane Science Award
A dozen years after NAVS launched its Humane Science Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), NAVS judges attending the event are still left breathless at the scope of sophistication and innovation brought by high school students from around the world. This year more than 1,500 students presented their projects to judges and the public in Phoenix, Arizona from May 14-16.
It is the job of the NAVS judges, Executive Director, Peggy Cunniff, Director of Science Programs, Pam Osenkowski, and Science Advisor, Gene Elmore, to find the projects and students who best advance science without harming—and often helping—animals. This year’s judging resulted in awards to three exceptional students who earned accolades not just from NAVS but from Intel judges for their excellence.
This year’s first place winner, Savannah Tobin, developed a diagnostic technique to identify a major cat allergen in cat saliva. She noted that the number one reason given by people for giving up their cats was an allergic reaction and she wanted to use science to develop an inexpensive and noninvasive technique to help identify cats from shelters that could be adopted by those who may otherwise have an allergy to some cats. Her project received the Best in Category and First Place prize in Biochemistry, as well as earning an all-expense paid trip to Stockholm for International Youth Science Seminar.
Samantha Marquez, this year’s second-place winner, has the distinction of being the first student to receive the Humane Science Award in two consecutive years. Her project, which continued her bioengineering work using Celloidosomes, engineered core-shell structures, took a new direction took a new direction this year and has promising applications for both neuroengineering and for use in biodefense. Samantha, who was excited to win the Humane Science Award in 2012, told the judges, “After I received the award I wanted to move away from even considering animal testing in that specific way and actually that really influenced me in developing the idea of using the neural Celloidosomes for reducing animal testing as a better, more representative model.” Samantha added, “[NAVS] is a society that really opens the door to just how much you can do without animal testing. I learned a lot from you all.” She also received the Intel Best of Category and First Place prize in Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering, as well as other prizes.
This year’s third place winner, Kelsey Barter, focused her research efforts on a modulating a protein called survivin, which is known to prevent programmed cell death. She is working to identify a small molecule that can interact with survivin as a potential cancer therapeutic. Her work, which won the second award in category for Biochemistry, relied entirely on in vitro techniques.
NAVS is the only animal advocacy organization that has been permitted to award a prize at this prestigious international science fair and our Humane Science Award considers projects that replace the use of animals or that seek to enhance our understanding of animals with noninvasive, observational studies.
The best reward for NAVS and NAVS supporters is that science-bound students are seeing the merit of research without a reliance on an animal model. NAVS is providing an important incentive to the best and brightest young scientists today to pursue careers in science that do not cause harm to animals. And this year you don’t have to take our word for it—Samantha has said it for us!
Winners receive a cash prize ($5,000 for first prize, $2,000 for second prize, and $1,000 for third prize) and a lifetime membership with NAVS.
Congratulations to all the finalists at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, but especially to those students whose projects achieved a high standard for excellence in the future of humane science.