Photo courtesy of: Society for Science and the Public
It’s not every day that a 17-year-old high school student wins multiple awards for his research – and even gets a minor planet named after him. But, then, Adam Mofeed Sawan is not your ordinary teenager.
Adam, who is graduating from Oakridge Secondary School, was one of only 18 students from across the country selected to represent Canada at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh. ISEF is the world’s most prestigious science fair, attracting the brightest 1,500 high school scientists from around the world.
Adam’s complex research project focused on bacteria growth and precipitation in the Red Sea Canal and the Dead Sea – building on a World Bank study evaluating a proposal to stabilize water levels and provide drinking water to countries in the Middle East.
Adam says his project taught him valuable lessons about the need for persistence and innovation in research that earned him multiple awards at the fair, including the top American Geosciences Institute award, the first place award for the Earth and Planetary Sciences division and one of 17 best-in-category awards.
The awards were valued at $9,000, in addition to $1,000 for Oakridge and $1,000 to Youth Science Canada, an organization that runs the science fair programs throughout Canada.
“The people who win at the science fair have the most innovative project,” Adam says, and adds, “The smartest person isn’t always the one who’s recognized. It’s the person who is innovative and thinks outside of the norm.”
How did Adam become interested in such a project?
“I took a trip to the Middle East back in Grade 10,” Adam recalls. “Before going there I thought it would be nice to do a science fair project in addition to doing a tourism thing.”
While in Palestine, Israel and Jordan, he visited the Dead Sea area and contacted leading researchers examining the proposed canal. With their help, he refined his research plan but was still in need of a mentor back in Canada. Teacher Craig Kermer recommended Dr. Gordon Southam, professor in biology/earth sciences at Western University, who has been instrumental in assisting Adam with his project.
Adam says his teachers have been supportive – even when he missed classes to go to the lab or handed assignments in late because of his research deadlines.
He is also grateful to his parents for encouraging him to pursue his interests – not just what he had to do in school. His interests are taking him to Western to study biomedical engineering in the fall where he wants to “concentrate on research.”
But Adam wants to keep his options open beyond university.
“Maybe I’ll become a professor, high school teacher or go into medicine. All I know is that I’ll end up in the best place for me. Eventually, I’d like to have an engineering degree combined with medicine and work in research centres or maybe work with Robarts or General Electric”.
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Congratulations and best wishes to all grads!
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