Imagine this: you wake up and turn on the news to see that there’s an asteroid headed towards Earth. It’s easy to expect that our global community would come together to mobilize all the scientific resources at our disposal to preserve as many human lives, and as much of our planet, as possible. But the reality is, there are metaphorical asteroids of unimagined proportions heading toward us right now —I’m talking about devastating diseases that are impacting larger and larger groups of people such as Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, new infectious diseases and cancer. And disease is not the only proverbial impact headed our way —we also are faced with questions about food security and climate change, to name a few.
As a nation, we should be mobilizing all of the scientific resources we would use to combat a real asteroid. In addition to creating policies and business practices that incentivize research to address these conditions, we should also be doing the best possible job of engaging the brightest young minds in America in these challenges.
The brightest minds
One way we do this is by supporting the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Named for visionary companies Westinghouse from 1942-1997 and Intel from 1998-2016, program alumni include recipients of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including 11 National Medals of Science, five Breakthrough Prizes, 18 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, two Fields Medals and 13 Nobel Prizes.
National Medals of Science
MacArthur Foundation Fellowships
Regeneron Science Talent Search competitors are a group of passionate, skilled young people bringing a fresh perspective to significant global problems. Last year’s winning projects include a new idea for eradicating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the discovery and investigation of a compound for use in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and a machine learning algorithm that could potentially detect genetic abnormalities in IVF embryos.
“In addition to creating policies and business practices that incentivize research to address these conditions, we should also be doing the best possible job of engaging the brightest young minds in America in these challenges.”
While all of these finalists come from schools in the U.S., typically each year a large number are immigrants or children of immigrants. This is the history of great scientists —they represent a broad spectrum of people from all over the world, and this is fitting, as the challenges these finalists are tackling are not unique to our country. Climate change, disease, space travel—these issues have global significance, and they’re growing only more complex. It should be easy to agree that supporting young people who are eager to address them through rigorous scientific research is not only the right thing to do, but is a wise investment in our collective future.
Furthermore, what these students are doing is a gift that keeps on giving. In addition to their development of real-world solutions to challenges that face us now, we hope their work will plant a seed. We want kids all around the world to hear their stories and begin to think, “Maybe I could do that, too.” Our hope is that the next generation will continue to look to the future with hope, curiosity, and confidence.
“For the sake of these young people —and indeed, for all of us—we urge our country’s leaders to make science a national priority.”
As these students move forward into their careers, it is critical that they receive the support needed to continue doing remarkable work. After all, robust scientific research and discovery is crucial to ensuring we can continue making strides. In particular, without our health and the health of our planet, it’s difficult for us to accomplish much else. It’s imperative that we provide these future leaders with all the resources we possibly can.
Most importantly, we need everyone across the globe to recognize these young people as heroes, as role models, as the best of the best, who— through the pursuit of science and innovation—can save mankind from the challenges we face. The more we do to make it clear that these young people should be treated as heroes, the more likely we are to inspire other young people to follow their lead in making important contributions to the world.