For the budding scientist, "Success with Science: The Winners' Guide to High School Research" is a special kind of book that will provide the right type of preparation and motivation. Author Shiv Gaglani, (the lead author along with four others), hopes to inspire other students to compete successfully for the Intel Science Talent Search, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and other competitions. Having graduated magna cum laude (with the highest honors) from Harvard University, Gaglani is currently an MD/MBA Candidate at the John Hopkins School of Medicine and Harvard Business School. In addition, Gaglani also contributes to a number of blogs and journals focusing on medicine and technology.
Shiv Gaglani took time from his busy schedule to share helpful information for parents interested in guiding their children to compete in these contests. Suffice it to say, Gaglani has a deep and abiding interest in science and is eager to share his extensive knowledge with others. (FYI: Don't be surprised if Gaglani wins a Nobel Prize one day!)
A. I came up with the idea for Success with Science as a senior in high school. When I arrived at Harvard, I realized that the book would be even more powerful if it featured the voices of many successful students who had done high school research. I started the Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association as a freshman and over the next year recruited co-authors who could each cover certain elements of the original chapter list I had put together.
The main motivation in the first place was to provide a guide to students who were interested in "dipping their toes" into research but may not have had the strong research program at their high schools. Many students have tremendous potential that is waiting to be "unlocked" with the right idea, opportunity, and catalyst. Success with Science was meant to be a catalyst for these students so that they could pursue their ideas and improve their chances of being successful.
Q2. What are some of the things readers will learn from this book?
A. The book is divided into five parts, each of which provides a tremendous amount of advice from students who themselves have succeeded:
1. The Benefits of Doing Research. This part motivates students to get excited
about doing research and clearly shows them how research can improve everything
from their college admissions and test scores to their writing and speaking skills.
2. Getting Started on a Project. In this part, students learn how to come up with an
an idea, find and impress a mentor, work in a lab, and keep a detailed log book.
3. Elements of a Successful Research Project. This part describes in depth how to
write a publishable research paper and put together, and deliver, an award-winning
4. Opportunities and Competitions. In this section of Success with Science, we
describe the major research competitions and opportunities available to high school
students, including the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Science
Talent Search, and Siemens Competition.
5. Research Beyond High School. This part motivates students to continue doing
research beyond high school and discusses the transition to college and their career.
Q3. Have you always been interested in science as a child? What sort of activities did you do?
A. Yes, I have always been curious and interested in science. I recall doing elementary school science projects (albeit not very well) and was fortunate to have parents who placed a high value on my education. They allowed me to explore my interests, which ranged from entomology to engineering to medicine.
It also helped that I grew up on the Space Coast in Florida, so I was surrounded by examples of how science and engineering could achieve amazing things (e.g. sending people to space). I think this perspective helped me stick with my early interests in math and science.
A. I went to the International Science and Engineering Fair in 2004 (Portland), 2005 (Phoenix), and 2006 (Indianapolis) and received 2nd place in Medicine and Health each year as well as a few other special/governmental awards.
In 2004, my project combined tissue engineering and 3D printing to bioengineer blood vessels. In 2005, my project was focused on making adult stem cells more potent to they could be converted into heart cells. This was an interesting time because embryonic stem cells were so controversial and the approach my lab and I were working on was considered a promising alternative. For my last year participating in ISEF 2006, my project aimed to genetically engineer plants to produce a protein that could help clear out cholesterol from blood vessels.
Q5. What do you know now that you wish you had learned earlier when it came to preparing for the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)?
A. I took the competition really seriously and initially was focused on winning awards, but realized that the major benefits of doing research were personal development (e.g. writing and speaking skills) as well as meeting peers and role models. For example, I met Dudley Herschbach, the Harvard professor and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, for the first time at ISEF 2004. I didn't realize that six years later he would writing the foreword to my first book.
Q6. How should parents help their kids who may be interested in participating in science fairs, whether at the local or national levels?
A. Parents should support and encourage their kids to pursue their interests. Under no circumstances should parents "do" the kid's project since that is often evident during the interviews.
In terms of support, I mean they can help them find research ideas and reach out to potential mentors. My father was integral to my research experiences, often driving me to nearby and distant universities so that I could perform my research. He was incredibly patient and often helped me think through the problems I was encountering in the lab. I know my co-authors would say the same thing about having supportive parents, which makes a tremendous difference.
Q7. How proactive should students be when it comes to participating in science fairs, and/or finding mentors, particularly if their school does not offer one?
A. One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Jefferson is: "I'm a firm believer in luck and I find that the harder I work, the more of it I have." I know many students who did not have research programs at their schools but were driven to find opportunities in pursuit of their passions. These students often do well since they are doing research for the right reasons. We hope that Success with Science can help them achieve their goals faster.
A. I'm not sure yet what specialty I'll be going into yet, but I am certain whichever I choose will involve technology. I really enjoy pediatrics since I would like to continue making a difference in the education and health of future generations. If we can teach children to be more health-conscious, for example, we can decrease the chances of them becoming sick as adults.
Q9. I get this feeling that a Nobel Prize is in your future. What would it be for?
A. Haha! (laughs). Thank You! In college, I was intending to do an MD/PhD, though realized that my primary passion is in developing ideas for scalable solutions in healthcare and education and then creating teams to implement them.
Q10. Do you have any other advice for parents and students?
A. A key piece of advice is to try to find your passions as early as possible, even though they may change over time.
Too many students and parents fall into the trap of doing things for the express purpose of getting into college. I call this the "Stepping Stone Myth" and it's actually something I've written extensively about in my next book, which has the working title of "Standing Out on the SAT and ACT: Unusually Effective Strategies for Success from Perfect Scorers." I co-wrote this with a recent high school graduate who also achieved perfect scores on both the SAT and ACT, and we're hoping to convince students and parents that these are not tests "to be gamed" but rather opportunities to learn essential vocabulary, reading, and mathematical skills before college.
Parents and students are urged to buy a copy of Shiv Gaglani's book: "Success with Science: The Winners' Guide to High School Research" at either http://www.successwithscience.org/ or through http://www.amazon.com/.
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