Dec 16, 2011

2011 Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

Each fall, regional program directors for the Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) put out calls for high school research papers. One of several prestigious national competitions, the JSHS offers unique opportunities for students to present original research to panels of expert judges and potentially win college scholarships amounting to thousands of dollars.

This year, the Junior Science & Humanities Symposium is celebrating its 50th anniversary and will hold the national event in Bethesda, Maryland, on May 2-6, 2012.

Unlike more familiar competitions sponsored by Intel and Siemens, JSHS departs from a traditional science fair format and employs a process more similar to that used for scientific or academic conferences and publications. Students are asked to submit abstracts for consideration at a regional level. If accepted, the research is then presented at a conference or symposium.

JSHS regional and national symposia are held during the academic year and typically reach over 10,000 high school students throughout the US, Puerto Rico, and the Department of Defense Schools of Europe and the Pacific Rim. Each of 48 university-held regional symposia invites participation from secondary schools within their region.

The DC area is covered by three separate regions and includes symposia held at James Madison University, Georgetown University, and Morgan State University. It’s a complicated arrangement, but students have a fair amount of flexibility about where to submit abstracts and are not limited by residency.

Although the DC deadline for submission has passed for this year, Virginia and Maryland are still accepting abstracts.

“We will accept applications until February 1, 2012,” said Dr. Thomas DeVore, the regional administrator for the Virginia JSHS.

DC students in high schools not already participating at Georgetown may still be eligible for consideration by Virginia or Maryland.

The competition requires an original research project on a topic in one of seven general categories including:

  • Environmental science (pollution and impact upon ecosystems, environmental management, bioremediation, climatology, weather)
  • Engineering, technology (including renewable energies, robotics)
  • Physical sciences (physics, computational astronomy, theoretical mathematics)
  • Chemistry (including chemistry—physical, organic, inorganic; earth science—geochemistry, materials science, alternative fuels)
  • Life sciences (general biology—animal sciences, plant sciences, ecology, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, immunology, biochemistry)
  • Medicine and health; behavioral and social sciences
  • Mathematics and computer science

Work may be part of a class project, a summer research project, or a science fair entry.

And the rewards are huge. Regional finalists receive scholarships, an expense-paid trip to the National JSHS, and an opportunity to compete for additional scholarships up to $12,000. Seven big winners at the national event win expense-paid trips to the London International Youth Science Forum.

Originated in 1958 as part of a greater effort to focus attention on the sciences and scientific research, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposia Program is sponsored by the US Departments Army, Navy, and Air Force. In addition to the financial incentives, students who participate get to interact with practicing researchers and potentially have their work published.

For more information and participation guidelines, visit the JSHS website. Links to regional competitions and application materials may be found on the contacts page.

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