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Alumni, Intel ISEF

'As soon as I could walk, I started to collect rocks'

9:00AM, May 26, 2017

Society alumna researches ways to break down and preserve fossils

Doing Science
Emily Cross delivered a keynote speech at the X-STEM Science and Engineering Festival.

Emily Cross delivered a keynote speech at the X-STEM Science and Engineering Festival.


Emily Cross, a Society alumna from Ontario, Canada, studies fossils, specifically chemical processes to better break them down, without damaging fossilized preserved tissues. Her research may even improve the mining process. Recently, Emily participated in the X-STEM USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. and gave a keynote speech.

Emily has competed in science fairs since third grade. She competed in Intel ISEF in 2015 and 2016, and in 2015 won a first place Special Award from the American Geoscience Institute and fourth place for the Grand Award in the Earth and Environmental Science category. Her project, “Patination of Raw Lithic Materials for Analysis of Prehistoric Artifacts,” was the culmination of nine months of experiments and research on the chemical and physical analysis of prehistoric stone tools.

Read on to learn more about Emily's research, and why she feels it's important to encourage others into STEM.

WHY SHE RESEARCHES FOSSILS AND AIR POLLUTANTS: The fossil research is on a type of rock called ironstone. It is a really “hard” rock – so hard that paleontologists have a hard time removing fossils from it without a lot of time and effort, and some damage to the fossil.

My current STEM goal is to become a vertebrate paleontologist who uses chemistry, biology, and physics to determine how prehistoric creatures lived.

I discovered a chemical process that can break down and soften the ironstone without damaging the fossil, or any potentially fossilized preserved tissues. I also discovered a chemical process that can break down and soften a slightly different ironstone that boulder opals are found in, which can help improve the mining process.

For my air pollution research, I successfully designed and tested an air purification system that can transfer air pollutants, like heavy metals, to water. Then [the system] uses an aquatic invertebrate to remove the pollutants from the water.

There is a place for everyone in STEM!

ON GIVING A KEYNOTE SPEECH AT X-STEM: The festival was incredible. I got to meet and listen to many of the other speakers and their messages. An overwhelming theme was that there is a place for everyone in STEM! Giving a keynote presentation was really amazing! There was a question and answer period after the speech, and just hearing how much I had inspired kids to keep following their passions and to try STEM was incredible. There were so many great questions like had I ever failed before? The answer was yes – that motivated the kids, and in return, motivated me to persevere with my research, no matter the obstacle! I also got to sign trading cards of myself which was pretty cool.

HER CURRENT STEM GOALS: My current STEM goal is to become a vertebrate paleontologist who uses chemistry, biology, and physics to determine how prehistoric creatures lived, how they influenced modern species, and ease in extraction processes.

Emily researches fossils and wants to be a vertebrate paleontologist.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SCIENCE FAIRS: As soon as I got to Intel ISEF, I felt motivated to continue with STEM. The atmosphere was so encouraging to all of us youth scientists. Intel ISEF motivated me to explore other areas of science that I probably would not have otherwise done so. It also encouraged me to think about how I could apply these other fields to research that I was already doing. It definitely also encouraged me to promote STEM to others! I go around to elementary classes in my city and talk about the benefits of STEM and youth researchers, and I always show the Intel ISEF highlights video.

HER MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT AT INTEL ISEF: I think the most memorable moment of Intel ISEF was in 2015, when Raymond and Nicole won and we sang “Oh Canada.” It made me feel proud to be Canadian, and proud to be a member of Team Canada!

Speaking to the team at the project beside me in 2015 was also very memorable. They were from Malaysia and experienced a very different lifestyle! It was really interesting to compare our different cultures, but notice that through it all, the science could be communicated the same!

The atmosphere at Intel ISEF was so encouraging to all of us youth scientists.

HOW SHE FIRST BECAME INTERESTED IN STEM: I have always been interested in STEM! Pretty much as soon as I could walk, I started to collect rocks. I always asked the question “why?” The moment I realized that I wanted to be a scientist was when I went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum when I was seven and I saw the technicians working in the prep lab and learned about all of the research.

Pretty much as soon as I could walk, I started to collect rocks.

HER ADVICE TO OTHERS INTERESTED IN STEM: I would say to explore your passions. You never know how much you could really enjoy something until you try! There may be people who say that you aren’t good enough, but I always believe that simply having a passion makes you good enough!

9:00am, May 24, 2017

Masayuki Mac Takahashi, a Society alum of the 1959 National Science Fair competition (now the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair), returns to judge projects at Intel ISEF. He judged at this year's competition in Los Angeles.

Dr. Masayuki is one of seven directors of the Japan Science Society. In the 1959 competition, held in Hartford, Connecticut, he won the 3rd place award with his study of "Dune plant ecology on the Enshunada coast."

Read on to learn how Masayuki is working to bring mentorship to Japan, especially in STEM education and research.

Masayuki Mac Takahashi is a Society alum of the 1959 National Science Fair competition.
12:00am, May 22, 2017

Last week in Los Angeles, California, nearly 2,000 high school students from 78 countries, regions, and territories competed in Intel ISEF, the world's largest international pre-college science competition. At the culmination of the competition, approximately $4 million was awarded to the finalists.

Amber Yang, Ivo Zell, and Valerio Pagliarino won the top awards at the Intel ISEF 2017.
12:00am, May 18, 2017

One science teacher uses a beloved English and creative writing method in his classes. He workshops with his students, and "didn't know that's what I was doing until my wife told me; she's in language arts," said Paul Strode, a teacher at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado.

If you can't write, you simply can't do science.

Jordan Pope, an Intel ISEF 2017 finalist from Baltimore, Maryland, presents his solar power heater kit.
12:00am, May 17, 2017

“Realize that the work you’re doing is much more important than what you perceive it to be,” urged Ann Makosinski (Intel ISEF 2013) to a roomful of Intel ISEF 2017 finalists at the Intel ISEF Alumni Entrepreneur Panel.

The projects and research finalists are working on are not only important to their lives, but to others, said Ann, the founder of Makotronics Enterprises.

At Intel ISEF, Sheel Tyle (middle) realized you don’t have to be old to create change.
2:58pm, May 16, 2017

Growing up in India, Manu Prakash couldn’t afford a microscope. He challenged his brother and himself that he would build one out of cardboard and duct tape. So he stole the fat lenses from his brother’s glasses and created his own.

“My brother was not happy,” Manu said, “but that was the moment that changed my trajectory into science.”

Manu Prakash described how scientific tools must be more accessible to people in the field, especially those without electricity.
2:57pm, May 16, 2017

Representatives from 78 countries, regions, and territories ran onto the stage, hoisting flags and posters decorated with their country pride. They were from Argentina and Zimbabwe, Israel and Saudi Arabia, Ghana and the Ukraine.

As country names were called out into the large hall, the representatives from each science fair team ran up and stood on stage. By the end of the list, there was a bustling crowd of finalists waving their hands and posters to the rest of the room. Last night at the opening ceremonies, we welcomed students from around the world to Intel ISEF 2017.

As their country was called, finalists ran up onto the stage with wide smiles.
12:00am, May 16, 2017

Why does it matter? Why is this relevant? Who will this impact?

These are the types of questions science fair competitors should be able to answer and communicate. JulieAnn Villa, a science teacher at Niles West High School in Skokie Illinois, offered this type of advice to science teachers, judges, mentors, and Intel ISEF 2017 finalists during a symposia session on how to help students best communicate their science.

Students and those involved in science fair or science research should be able to explain why it is relevant. "Students have to get at the why," JulieAnn said.

12:00am, May 16, 2017

"Think about what you prioritize and your happiness — let that guide you," said H. Robert Horvitz. It is possible to balance your career and personal life, he explained.

Nobel Prize laureates offered advice like this, and more, for the Intel ISEF 2017 finalists during the Excellence in Science and Technology Panel.

Dianne Newman encouraged the finalists to get out of echo chambers and engage in dialogue with others.
3:00pm, May 15, 2017

If you’re interested in science and research, go for it and persist. This was the main theme of the Leveraging Your Science Fair Experience: Oh the Places You Can Go! symposia session at Intel ISEF 2017 with Society for Science & the Public President & CEO Maya Ajmera and several Intel ISEF alumni.

“Many of you will now become alumni after this week,” Maya said. “It comes with a great network and an extraordinary experience.”

Alumni on the panel included:

Linn, Raymond, Maya Ajmera, Diya, Christopher, and Kathy at an Intel ISEF 2017 symposia session.
12:00pm, May 15, 2017

Dozens of inflatable globes were thrown into the audience. Intel ISEF finalists, judges, and fair directors spun their globes, spotting the Gulf Stream, Kuroshio Current, and other important spots.

Symposia audience members inspect inflatable globes to learn about climate change modeling.
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