Maine State Science Fair celebrates young scientists and engineers

(l to r) Emma Markowitz, May Shin, and Anh Võ(l to r) Emma Markowitz, May Shin, and Anh Võ

On Saturday, April 1, STEM professionals and educators from around the state came together at The University of Maine to present, discuss, and recognize the work of 200 high school student researchers at the Maine State Science Fair (MSSF).

Coordinators of the MSSF, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) and The Jackson Laboratory announced awards for 92 students representing 20 high schools, including $750,000 in Maine college scholarships. 

“Students worked very, very hard on this for weeks, months, or maybe even a progression of a few years to make their projects stronger,” said Ruth Kermish-Allen, executive director of MMSA. “It takes a lot of resilience, and I for one was so inspired walking around the exhibit hall today seeing the passion, the excitement, the real joy for what students are learning about research and advancing our understanding for the betterment of society.”

“We’re continually impressed by the students’ ideas,” said Charlie Wray, vice president for Education, JAX. “The level of creativity we see in Maine high school students, which they bring to solve some very difficult problems, is truly inspiring.”

The 2023 Grand Award winners of MSSF were:

  • Taking the top prize: Emma Markowitz, a homeschooled student from Trevett. Emma developed a biodegradable, antimicrobial wound dressing for the purpose of detecting infection and healing wounds. A pH indicator incorporated into the wound dressing presents a color change that can indicate if a wound is infected.

  • Placing second were May Shin and Jiwon Choi of Fryeburg Academy. The pair studied the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizae and mushroom substrate on plant growth in soils that are contaminated with microplastics. They are continuing to study the effects of these materials on a soil’s water-holding capacity.

  • In third place was Anh Võ of John Bapst Memorial High School. Anh’s project fused data science with behavioral science to study which areas of computer science would have the greatest influence on recruiting young women to pursue careers in STEM.

These four students will travel to Dallas in May to represent Maine at the Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair alongside 1,700 students from over 80 countries. 

The University of Maine led the scholarship program with 12 UMaine Top Scholar awards, which provide a renewable four-year full-tuition scholarship, pairing with a research mentor, and admission to the UMaine Honors College. The University of Southern Maine awarded seven four-year full-tuition scholarships. The University of New England awarded five $5,000 scholarships, each one renewable for up to four years. St. Joseph’s College, UMaine Augusta, and the UMaine College of Engineering each awarded additional scholarships.

The full list of awards, including scholarships, is available at the Maine State Science Fair website.