“Benjy” Firester won first prize at the 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search, for his research on the microorganism that caused the Irish Potato Famine, known in Ireland as The Great Hunger. In the six years from 1845-1850, between one and two million people died of starvation and disease, exacerbated by devastating British government policies.

That organism is still around.

You may be assuming that Benjy’s research was in biology or chemistry. Surprise! He mapped weather data and the spread of spores in Israel. I haven’t read Benjy’s paper, “Modeling the Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Photophthora infestans on a Regional Scale,” but it sounds like something you might have done as a data analysis project for your mathematics class. And in fact, Benjy is planning to study mathematics and computer science.



Athena Advises

Benjy Firester is 18 years old. He’s a senior at Hunter College High School in New York. I’ll probably get to meet him at the HCHS reunion in June. I’ll bet the entire alumni body will rise and applaud this talented teenager.

I’m telling you all this because not long ago, one of my own students was agonizing over extracurricular activities. “What can I do?” he moaned. “I’m only a teenager!”

So is Benjy. So are the 1,800 other students who had the guts to compete in the Science Talent Search. You can compete, too! What are you good at? What would force you to become better at what you most like to do?

I just googled “teenage competitions.” In addition to competitions in science, engineering and robotics, there are competitions in art, writing, photography, architecture, and pretty much anything you can name. Refine your search according to your age, interests and level of skill.

Those of you in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program already have projects built into your curriculum. How good was your last History IA? Your Art HL exhibition materials? Your Extended Essay? How about your Math Portfolio?

I’m looking forward to applauding wildly for Benjy Firester–and some day, for you.

Dr. Marlena Corcoran
Founder and CEO

Photo credit: CNN. Source for this report: “Potato Power: Student winds $250,000 prize for blight solution that could save billions” https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/13/us/science-talent-s…