For Kennedy High School senior Natalie Giovino, two years’ worth of cancer research boiled down to a few momentary encounters with a handful of doctors and scientists, who came to pick apart her work and test whether it could stand up to professional scrutiny.
As Giovino, 17, patiently sat in front of her carefully constructed poster boards that described her research, awaiting the judges’ arrival, her nerves nearly got the best of her. “It was very suspenseful,” she said.
If she took first in the medical category at the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair, held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on March 11, Giovino would win an all-expenses-paid trip to Phoenix, site of the International Science and Engineering Fair, sponsored by the Intel Corporation and the Society for Science and the Public in May.
By day’s end, Giovino, of Merrick, had prevailed, grabbing first in her category, earning her the coveted trip. This is the third straight year that Kennedy is sending a research student to the fair, which is billed as the “world’s largest pre-college science competition,” and attracts students from more than 70 countries.
For Giovino, who fell in love with science as a student at Merrick Avenue Middle School, the win was a longtime dream realized. It was, after all, what she had been working toward for more than two years, commuting back and forth to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, where she conducted her research over the summer, scouring the Internet for hours for little-known facts, crunching data, and spending weeks writing and refining her thesis.
Dozens of the best science students from across Long Island annually compete in LISEF, hoping to move on to the international level. Each Long Island high school is allowed to send six students to the fair, which consists of two rounds, held in February and March. A number of the Island’s top scientists and doctors, all of whom hold doctorates or medical degrees, serve as judges. Contestants lay out their work on giant poster boards, and judges roam around, randomly questioning students about their work.