Chasing my wildest dreams
By Trixie Lee (’06)
As a child, I had an insatiable curiosity about nature. I asked questions and explored, but I didn’t understand how to find answers until I understood the scientific method.
Linda Niccoli, biology teacher at Fleming (Colo.) High School, taught me how to focus my interest to investigate a question thoroughly and find an answer by giving me the opportunity to do science fair projects while I was a student there.
My experiences in science fairs shaped who I have become as I learned to think critically, design experiments, and reach my own conclusions about the world around me. I was also challenged to present my findings to a range of audiences through science fair that taught me how to communicate what was important and gave me confidence to continue pursuing my passions, as well as exposing me to a wide range of ideas and people from around the world who gave me invaluable connections.
After graduating from Fleming High School in 2002, I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in biology at Harding University in 2006 where I engaged in research for three years, studying the hatchling ecology of soft-shell turtles with Dr. Mike Plummer.
This experience only confirmed the interest I had found in research through science fairs, and I set out on an even greater journey into graduate school. I am now a Ph.D. student at University of Alaska–Fairbanks, studying the hibernation physiology of Arctic ground squirrels, the only mammals known to maintain body temperatures below freezing without harm. My research involves working with state-of-the-art technology both in the lab and in the amazing Arctic ecosystem as I explore new facets of nature that no one understands. I can’t imagine doing anything else in life right now, but I would not have found this path without the opportunities science fair opened for me.
Science fairs had the greatest influence on the direction of my life of any activity in my “younger” years, and I believe all students should have the opportunity to engage in a project that really interests them. For students who have an interest in pursuing research or medical training, this experience is critical for them to understand what is involved. It may also inspire other students to consider these fields for which we are in a continual need of more dedicated professionals.
Not all students will pursue science as a career, but science fairs can greatly benefit all students who have the opportunity to participate. Thinking deeply about a problem and how to solve it is a skill everyone needs to be productive in life, and designing and completing such a challenging task lets students know that they can succeed when they focus and pursue something. All students should have an understanding of the scientific method so they can understand and apply new findings and technology to their lives, and the most effective way to make this happen is through mentored programs like science fairs that engage students early in their education.
When I was collecting eggs to measure cholesterol as a sophomore in high school, I never imagined that someday I’d be hiking across the Arctic tundra and publishing scholarly articles to share new knowledge about this amazing creation with the world. I’ve been given the opportunity to chase my wildest dreams, and it all started with science fairs.
Courtesy of the Feb. 27, 2008, Journal-Advocate, Sterling, Colo.