GUMC Professor Sits as Judge For National Science Competition

Posted in GUMC Stories

MARCH 19, 2015—Each year, nearly 2,000 high school students compete in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search (STS) (new window) with the hopes of being selected as one of the top 40 competitors. But if you’re out of high school, the next best honor is to be selected as one of 13 judges. This year, one of Georgetown University Medical Center’s very own landed one of the coveted judging spots for the 2015 competition held March 5-11 in Washington.

Carlos Suárez-Quian, PhD (new window), who holds several awards for his teaching prowess at the School of Medicine (new window), including the Magis, was notified in the fall that he had been selected.

“Dr. Suárez-Quian is a truly magical medical educator with a long track record of being the best at what he does,” says colleague Paul D. Roepe, PhD (new window), an Intel STS referee. “He has done real innovative things teaching anatomy and I’m sure Intel loves his ‘educator enthusiasm.’”

The Intel STS is an annual competition for high school seniors to inspire innovation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and to recognize notable achievements by the next generation of scientific leaders. Forty finalists present their research and new technologies as they compete for cash prizes for themselves and their schools provided by the Intel Foundation.

Responsibilities of Referees and Judges

Suárez-Quian has been involved with the Intel STS for 10 years. He credits two of his colleagues, Susan Mulroney, PhD (new window), professor in the department of pharmacology and physiology, and Adam Myers, PhD (new window), associate dean and professor in the department of physiology and biophysics, who were referees in the early 2000s and encouraged Suárez-Quian to join them.

Referees play a key role. According to Suárez-Quian, each referee reads and scores 60 to 80 applications to narrow the field from a few thousand competitors to 300 during three-four days in November before the winter competition.

“You read applications where the research performed is generally in your field of expertise,” he says. “Mine is medical sciences, so I tend to look at applications from students who work in medical research.” Suárez-Quian, a professor of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, first came to Georgetown in 1986 to conduct research on the cell biology of spermatogenesis.

Once the 300 semi-finalists are selected, the judges meet in mid-December to review and select the final 40 competitors.

“Most of the 300 semi-finalists have outstanding academic credentials, so the judges focus mostly on the scientific merit of the research,” says Suárez-Quian.

In March, the 40 finalists and 13 judges gather for five days. Each competitor meets with each judge for several question-and-answer sessions. The last portion of the competition includes poster sessions where competitors present their research.

Inspiring Young Scientists

For Suárez-Quian, being a referee and a judge is a rewarding role, each in its own ways. But they both have a common denominator.

“It is satisfying to know that you were one of the people who selected an innovative and deserving young scientist to win a life-altering scholarship to attend college,” he says.

He understands the impact educators can have on students at all age levels and believes it is important to keep students excited about science.

“Research is hard and the easy experiments have been done already,” says Suárez-Quian. “Having had the privilege of doing research for many years, I now think it is our responsibility to help in any way we can to foster these young minds to reach their full potential. One never knows when a young student will come up with the brilliant insight to test a hypothesis that a biased investigator will not dare test.”

By Sarah Reik
GUMC Communications