An Insider’s View of the BioGENEius Challenge

By Erica Hiar, Environics

A big highlight every year for many attendees at BIO International Convention is the announcement of the winner of the International BioGENEius Challenge, a competition for high school students who demonstrate an exemplary understanding of biotechnology through science research projects. But for me, the true excitement was the ride getting there.

Four hundred thirty-five students applied for the U.S. International BioGENEius challenge and hundreds more applied to the Canadian and Western Australian competitions. It all culminated at BIO Convention with fourteen students (10 from the U.S., 2 from Canada and 2 from Western Australia) competing for the international BioGENEius title.

Lucky for me, I got hang around these literal BioGENEiuses the last few days and throughout the competition. What amazed me was how personable, friendly and down to earth these brainiacs are. One student said to me, I came to Boston not knowing anyone and now I am leaving with at least 15 new friends.

Their humility and kindness toward each other was visibly noticeable. As I sat with the kids before the final announcement of the four victors, one student suggested they all pray together. As they huddled together in a circle that was basically a big “group hug” holding hands and praying for one another- I honestly got a little weepy.

In the end all the participants were truly winners. Each participant that reached the International Challenge level received an unforgettable experience at BIO; some even meeting future employers. Multiple students were even offered internships on the spot!

Winners were announced yesterday at the keynote luncheon  and Nathan Kondamuri, a junior from Munster High School in Dyer, Ind. won the challenge with his project titled, “A Novel Porphyrin Based Solar Cell Combining Coordinated Metal Ion Substitution and Self-Assembly to Broaden the Absorption Spectrum to Efficiently Create Sustainable.”

Students were evaluated on the quality of their research and display, their responses to questions relating to their scientific knowledge, and the potential commercial applications of their research. Nathan is a second-time winner in the BioGENEius International Challenge, as he came in second place last year. With BioGENEius behind him, Nathan plans to attend research camp next week at MIT and has high hopes to attend Stanford for college. Nathan will receive an award of $7,500.

Biotechnology has enormous potential to address some of the most important problems facing our world, including the prevention and treatment of disease and these kids truly are our future life-savers!

The International BioGENEius Challenge is organized by the Biotechnology Institute, the national organization dedicated to biotechnology education, and sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi; and Janssen.

In addition to Sanofi Pasteur and Janssen, support for the BioGENEius Challenge is provided by International Supporters: The Astellas Foundation, BIO, Genentech and MedImmune; and U.S. National Supporters: Acorda Therapeutics, The Allergan Foundation and Sangamo BioSciences.

For more information on the challenge please click here.

Watch some of the BioGENEius participants take part in an interview at the BIO Buzz Center:

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