Science Geek – Hardly – Melissa Rey is America's Top Young Scientist

Hi Girls, it’s Poppy
A few weeks ago we posted about the Young Scientists Challenge, the search for America’s top Young Scientist. As you probably guessed, I think that’s way cooler than American Idol . But anyway, we go the chance to talk to Melissa Rey – last year’s winner of the Young Scientist’s Challenge. She is so cool and smart and we kinda love that she beat out lots of boys to be named Top Scientist – and she got to ride in a Rocket Car! Read the interview below.

1) When did you first know you had a passion for science?
My big brother Adam started doing experiments when he was in kindergarten. I was two years old. I loved watching him work and I wanted to be just like him. Science is so interesting because you can never run out of questions to ask or of places to look for answers.

2) What would you say to someone your age who thinks that science is boring and unrelated to her life?
Lots of kids my age think science is boring when they read articles about research or discoveries that have nothing to do with their own lives. But, if you take science and apply it to your life, it will become important and fascinating. For example, for my experiment last year I applied science to my favorite sport – soccer. I tested the performance of a new kind of paneled soccer ball design that was being used in the World Cup against the traditional kind of hexagonal style. I had to recruit lots of soccer players to kick the balls for my accuracy tests. All of the soccer players became interested in the science behind my experiment because it was dealing with soccer, a sport that they loved. If you take science out of a boring article and apply it to something that interests you, it will automatically become fascinating.

3) What’s the coolest science experiment you have ever seen or done?
In seventh grade I ran an experiment testing how well those chemical sprays you see on TV detective shows like “CSI” work at revealing latent blood that a criminal tried to remove at a crime scene. I sent an email to the St. Louis County Crime Lab with a list of questions for my research and they invited me to come and tour the lab. It was amazing! I got to see real detectives in action. They showed me how they fire guns taken from crime scenes into a tank and then match those bullets to those recovered and crime scenes. I was trained by the police how to use Luminol to uncover latent blood. The detectives gave me a t-shirt with 7 different stains and let me run tests to find the bloodstain. I learned that bloodstains turn brown after they dry so it is very important to an investigation to test all of the stains to see if they are really blood. I also watched the police scientists run DNA tests on samples from real crimes. It was fascinating.

4) How did you come up with your idea for your (winning!!) science video entry for the 2008 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientists Contest?
First, I wanted to pick a video that I thought may not be the most popular selection so it would stand out to the judges. I did some research on the Doppler Effect on the internet and I came up with the idea of using a car horn for demonstration. I was studying for my driver’s permit, so I thought sitting in a car for part of my video would be fun. And it was!

5) When you’re not conducting science experiments or competing in science contests, what do you most like to do?
I love sports. Right now it is soccer season, so I am playing on my high school’s JV soccer team. This summer, I will play in a lacrosse league. I am thinking of trying Cross Country this fall, but I am not sure yet. I also love performing. Last fall, I played a crazy lady in my school’s fall play, “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” This spring, I danced and sing in our production of “Hello Dolly!” I am hoping to take some more acting classes this summer.

6) If you could have lunch with anyone in the world (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I would love the opportunity to have lunch with Anne Frank. She was such an incredible, brave and forgiving person. I would like to meet her in person and to tell her how much reading her diary meant to me and to millions of other people.

7) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to be on a science TV show and then train to be an astronaut at NASA.

8) What advice would you give someone who wants to be America’s next “TopYoung Scientist?”
For your video, pick a concept that you can explain in a visual and an interesting way. Keep it simple and explain this one concept several different ways. If you watch my Doppler Effect video (it’s on the website), you will see that I first demonstrated the Doppler Effect with a car horn. Then, I gave a demonstration of how the sound waves looked when they changed using a bathtub full of water. I also made a drawing to illustrate the difference between the shape of the sound waves in the front and the back of the car. People have different learning styles and you need to present the same concept in several different ways. Be enthusiastic about your topic and your viewers will be enthusiastic, too.
My strongest piece of advice is to be true to yourself. The judges told me that they picked me because of my enthusiasm and my communication skills. There were definitely some finalists who had memorized a lot more science facts than I did, but I was able to take a scientific concept and explain it in a simple way – in front of judges, television cameras and an audience. This competition is looking for the top science communicator who can present complex concepts in an interesting and easy to understand way. Good luck!

Posted by GirlMogul Poppy

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