When Meghal Sheth won a coveted spot at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, she was thrilled.
As one of only 10 students from the state of Washington to win the all-expenses-paid trip to Phoenix, Ariz., Sheth, 16, enjoyed being surrounded by others who shared her passions. She was joined by her friend and fellow Camas High School sophomore Sophie Shoemaker.
“It was a surreal and humbling experience,” Sheth said. “It was amazing being surrounded by kids who have the same passion for science and who are conducting breakthrough research in many different fields of math and science.”
Sheth qualified for ISEF at the state level, and Shoemaker, at the regional level.
“The great part about ISEF was the fact that Intel made sure that all of the finalists were not just focused on competing, but had a great time, too,” Sheth said. “There were many social activities like dances and pin exchanges, which were a great opportunity to connect with students all over the world.”
However, the crowning achievement came after she won a $1,000 prize for her experiment from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Sheth’s study, using zebrafish, found that Bisphenol A, a common molecule used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, may lead to hearing loss in humans.
During ISEF, Sheth presented her research findings to Dr. Marlene Cole, AVMA judging chair, for approximately 45 minutes.
“I could see that she was interested in my research, but I never expected the award,” Sheth said. “Being called up on stage for the award gave me a feeling that I cannot describe. I guess I felt like my hard work paid off and I also felt a lot of pride in my work. I was overjoyed and it felt awesome to represent Team Washington at that moment.”
In a press release from the AVMA, Cole said that many past winners go on to become veterinarians.
“All the research projects presented at the Intel fair are worthy of an award,” she added. “These high school students are doing college-level research, so it’s truly a difficult decision. Their dedication, ambition and energy are inspirational.”
Ron Wright is a CHS magnet program teacher who also coaches students for the State Science and Engineering Fair.
“We are all very proud of Meghal and her hard work and dedication to this project,” he said. “And (we are) very thankful to (mentor) Dr. (Allison) Coffin for giving Meghal the chance to work in her lab.”
Sheth added none of her accomplishments would have happened without the support of her CHS magnet program teachers, Coffin, and her parents.
“All of these people have given me the confidence to speak about my research, the support to get past all of the rough patches that come with balancing school, sports, and an internship, and have finally given me the power to troubleshoot different issues that come with conducting research,” Sheth said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Sheth, an aspiring surgeon, keeps a busy schedule: In addition to conducting award-winning research, she is also on the varsity tennis team, will be junior class vice present, is in the National Honor Society and on the Science Olympiad Team.
While at ISEF, she had to miss a few tennis matches, but it was all worth it, especially when she and Shoemaker met Nobel laureates, who answered questions about their legacy and what it took for them to get to that point.
“I will definitely try to qualify again next year,” Sheth said. “After getting a taste of ISEF once, you just want to keep going back. I would say it was the best week of my life.”