Middle and high school students heard scientists describe their work and professional accomplishments during a series of talks in March and April staged in connection with this month’s USA Science & Engineering Festival.
The speakers program, called Nifty Fifty (times 2) because of the more than 100 speakers who spoke at Washington, D.C., area schools, brought Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, to Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda on March 26.
Fauci discussed his work with HIV and AIDS when it was first recognized in the 1980s, and his decision to study the disease and look for its cause and cure. He showed photographs of himself with national leaders he has met and told students of the places he has been during his career in medicine.
He and three other scientists spoke with students in Montgomery County Public Schools hoping to build students’ interest in science careers.
Most of the students who filled the auditorium for Fauci’s talk were from the top science classes at Walter Johnson.
“I came because I thought it would be interesting to know how one person made such a difference,” said freshman Clair Moreno Sanchez, 14. “[He told us] a newspaper story came in about five gay men who had a disease they thought was pneumonia. One month later it was 26 men. [Fauci] decided to look into it. He started helping one or two and ended up helping millions.”
Nifty 50 (times 2) is a spin-off program started by scientist, businessman and entrepreneur Lawrence Bock to bring students and scientists together and generate interest in the USA Science & Engineering Festival and Book Fair. The festival will take place April 28 and 29 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Bock said he started his career as a scientist, then turned businessman/entrepreneur, starting more than 40 companies.
He said he first became aware of the need for more scientists and engineers when he tried to hire people to work for him.
“I could not recruit Americans for the jobs,” he said. “There were not enough qualified people.”
So, he said, he started Science and Engineering Festivals around the country about four years ago based on a successful one he saw in Cambridge, England.
“I believe that you get what you celebrate,” Bock said. “We need to celebrate scientists and engineers.”
He said there is no way to determine the effectiveness of the science festivals except across a long period of time.
This year will be the second year for the national festival in Washington. More than 650,000 people attended last year’s festival, Bock said. He expects that number to increase this year, and said the number of organizations signed up to participate has more than doubles since last year.
Artur Gevorgyan, 14, a freshman at Walter Johnson, stayed after Fauci’s talk to speak with him.
He said he is interested in going into medicine and would like to find medicines to help others.
“It was interesting and it encouraged me to help other people,” Artur said. “He told us to help others if we get the chance.”
To learn more about the Nifty Fifty (times 2) program or the USA Science and Engineering Festival visit www.usasciencefestival.org.