Intel ISEF Special Award winners visit CERN

Intel ISEF Special Award winners 2014 meet the CERN DG (Image: Mary Touranakou/CERN)

In June, CERN hosted the 12 pre-college students who won the CERN Special Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2014. The Intel ISEF is the world's largest international pre-college science competition offering a yearly forum for more than 1,700 high school students from around 70 countries to showcase their independent research tackling challenging scientific questions. The organiser, ‘Society for Science & the Public’, partners with Intel, along with dozens of other corporate, academic, government and science-focused sponsors. They reward the Fair's best students, who are all winners of national competitions.

The CERN Special Award - a 5-day trip to CERN for 12 students - was established in 2009 and co-funded by the CERN IT department and Intel. Now in its sixth year, this Special Award has proven to be very popular. The award winners go through a thorough selection process. Applicants have to excel in an online test before being reviewed by two CERN judges, Jan Iven and Markus Schulz, at the Fair in May in Los Angeles, USA. The final selection is based on an evaluation of the students’ projects and on individual interviews.

This year’s winners are: Michaela Brchnelova, Isabelle Goldstein, William C. Hang, Allen Jiang, Jason Kim Syndergaard, Daniel Mogilny, Gili Rusak, Tucker John Sandbakken, Anand Srinivasan, Lia Grace Strauss Eggleston, Jared Anthony Tramontano, Mie Yamanaka.

Despite their young age (the youngest being 14 and the eldest 17), all are already well-acquainted with science, having done projects covering topics as diverse as ‘Tycho Supernova Remnant Accelerating Cosmic-rays’, ‘Semantic Multilayer SVM: Novel Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision Applied to Prostate Cancer Grading and Breast Cancer Diagnosis’, ‘Spectral Smartphone: Rapid Prototyping Mobile Platform Diffraction Spectrophotometry’, ‘Partitioning Gamma-Ray Sources in Fermi Large Area Telescope Observations for Spatial and Spectral Analysis’, ‘RNNScan: Eukaryotic Gene Finding via Hybrid Recurrent Neural Networks’, ‘Development of Highly Efficient and Stable Dye-sensitized Solar Cells Using Hydrangea Macrophylla Dyes’ to name just a few. The full list and the description of their projects are available here.

The students visited the Antiproton Decelerator (AD), the CERN Control Centre (CCC), the CERN data centre, the Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR), the magnet assembly hall, as well as the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) and Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) experiments. The award winners also enjoyed presentations from various prominent physicists and engineers, and particularly appreciated the chance to talk with the CERN Director General, Rolf Heuer. Visits to Geneva, the region and EPFL (in particular the Human Brain Project and the TCV Tokamak) were also part of their programme.

“CERN was absolutely fantastic,” says participant Gili Rusak from Latham, New York, USA. Mie Yamanaka from Sendai, Japan, agrees: “This trip is a lifetime treasure.” Jason Syndergaard, from Spanish Fork, Utah, USA, adds: “Like the big bang, it was a blast.” This week at CERN might also lead to follow-up projects; Michaela Brchnelova expressed strong interest for combining her results with data from AMS.

Click here to find out more about their week at CERN.