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Inspiring the Next Generation: My Experience at the ISEF Science Fair

By: Carrissa Dowdy, Manager Product Formulation

As I walked into the empty Los Angeles Convention Center, filled with over 1,300 project displays from students all over the world, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement and anticipation. I was attending the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), a prestigious event that showcases the brightest young minds in the world of STEM. Mary Kay has always been an advocate for women in STEM – which I experience firsthand as a member of the Research & Development team – and I was proud to represent the Company in furthering these young participants’ dreams. Little did I know, this experience would be nothing short of inspiring and eye-opening for me as well.

ISEF was a melting pot of creativity, innovation, and sheer brilliance. Over 1,800 high school students from around the globe gathered to present their groundbreaking research projects. Wandering through the exhibition hall, I was captivated by the passion and dedication these young scientists displayed. From complex robotics to advanced biomedical research, their projects covered an extensive range of scientific disciplines. I knew identifying our top three awardees would be challenging with everyone competing at the highest level of excellence, but what I experienced was the epitome of greatness.

One of the most notable aspects of ISEF was the significant presence of women in STEM. It was heartening to see young female scientists confidently presenting their work and pushing the boundaries of traditional gender roles in the field.

The empowerment and encouragement these young women demonstrated were truly inspiring. It served as a reminder of the crucial role women play in shaping the future of STEM fields. Throughout the event, it became apparent that mentorship played a vital role in nurturing the talent and passion of these young scientists. Many students talked about the invaluable guidance and support they received from mentors who believed in their potential. Mentorship not only provides technical knowledge but also instills the confidence and resilience a woman needs to pursue a career in STEM.

Our Special Awards criteria was rigorous to ensure that we identified winners who supported Mary Kay’s commitment to investing in solutions in curing cancers affecting women, innovation, and sustainability.

We were blown away by Keshvee Sekhda and Nyambura Sallinen’s (US-Georgia) IdentiCan App that could successfully diagnose breast, lung, and skin cancer in 99.6% of patients. We were touched by Carolina de Araujo Pereira da Silva’s (Brazil) story of her mother’s cancer and how it inspired her to investigate a Manganese based drug therapy to treat similar cancers. Kristin Dasaro*, our resident sustainability maven, was drawn to Madlena Castro and Frederico Mauritty’s (Portugal) project that made waterproof biofilms from chitin found in discarded shrimp shells. While I loved their idea, my shrimp allergy prevented an up close and personal demo to confirm Kristin’s assessment that their project was amazing.

Attending ISEF left me with a renewed sense of hope for the future. These young scientists are not just leaders of tomorrow; they are trailblazers in their respective fields today. Their passion, dedication, and innovative thinking are paving the way for groundbreaking advancements in science and technology. ISEF was an unforgettable experience that reaffirmed the importance of inspiring and engaging the next generation of leaders in STEM. It highlighted the significant contributions of women in the field and emphasized the need for mentorship programs to support aspiring scientists.

As we continue encouraging and nurturing young minds, we can create a future where gender equality and diversity thrive in STEM fields. ISEF is a testament to the incredible potential of these young scientists, and I am excited to witness their impact on the world.

About Regeneron ISEF & Our Judges

The Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF) is the world’s largest science competition for high school aged students, convening nearly 2,000 participants annually from almost 70 countries, in hopes of taking home a portion of ~$9 million in awards.

Mary Kay Inc. served as a Special Award Organization 2024 competition hosted in Los Angeles, CA from May 11-17. Kristin Dasaro, Director of Package Engineering, Sustainability and Process Development & Commercialization and Carrissa Dowdy, Manager of Product Formulation, attended on behalf of Mary Kay Inc. to meet, interview, and present $7,500 in awards to five inspiring young scientists receiving 2024 Mary Kay grants. 

Learn more about Regeneron ISEF and meet our 2024 award recipients.