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Vol. LIX, No. 5
March 9, 2007
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Young Scientists 'Renew Hope'
Discovery Channel, NIH Air 'Challenge' Show Taped Here
Among the many who helped plan the NIH-Discovery Channel event are (top, from l) Dr. Kanta Subbarao, Dr. David Morens, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Taylor and Dr. Hillery Harvey, all of NIAID; (second row) Cyrena Simons of ORF; Raymond MacDougall, Dr. Carla Easter, Maggie Bartlett and Rebecca Kolberg, all of NHGRI; (third row) Jennifer Haley, Lawrence Self and Hilda Dixon, all of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management; Dr. Ron Summers of the Clinical Center; (bottom) Dr. Michael Humble of NIEHS; Dr. Denise Simons-Morton of NHLBI, Betsy Singer of NIDDK, Karen Donato of NHLBI and Leslie Curtis of NIDDK.

The Discovery Channel recently aired its Young Scientist Challenge show, which featured the national science competition held at NIH last October. To celebrate the show's premiere and to thank NIH'ers who helped plan the challenges, the Office of Communications and Public Liaison held a screening — complete with popcorn and lemonade — on Feb. 21.

"It was a surprisingly fun and gratifying experience we had that was sponsored byNIH and the Discovery Channel," said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, at the screening. NIAID created one of the challenges most cited by the contestants in their daily web logs. Titled "Avian Flu: Something in the Air," the exercise simulated a possible outbreak of a highly publicized virus. Each team of middle school-age contestants had to diagnose the infection, figure out how to limit its spread and communicate a public health policy to the media. "Being a part of the challenge was a wonderful experience that really renews our hope in the younger generation's ability and interest in science," Fauci added.

Discovery teams up every year with an agency or institution to sponsor the competition to identify "America's Top Young Scientist of the Year." Forty students are selectedfrom thousands of science fair entrants nationwide to compete in "Finalist Week" at the partner institution.

In addition to NIAID's infection exercise, NIH challenges included "Environment: Breaking the Mold" by NIEHS, "Endoscopy/Imaging/Colonoscopy: From the Inside Out" by the Clinical Center and NHGRI and "Obesity: Eat, Think & Be Healthy" by NHLBI and NIDDK. The finalists also competed in lab skills activities, a chemistry challenge and a makeshift media center, where they documented and communicated the results of their experiments for a waiting “public.” Logistical support was supplied by the Office of Research Services and the Office of Research Facilities. The middle schoolers ended their NIH adventure with visits to the Children's Inn and to Ketcham Elementary School in Washington, D.C., where they shared the challenge experience with youngsters at NIH's adopted school. From all accounts — kids' blogs, organizers' testimonials and the videotaped evidence — NIH's first year as Discovery's partner drew rave reviews.

"We want to extend thanks and congratulations to all of you who made this such a success," said John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison, whose office coordinated NIH's participation in the event. OCPL arranged for an NIH video crew to shadow the Discovery Channel production team during the 3 days the young scientists were here. The screening event included a 12-minute "home movie" produced by OCPL's News Media Branch as well as footage from a Discovery Channel interview with NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and the official 40-minute challenge show that was broadcast at various times in February on Discovery Channel, Discovery Kids, Discovery Science and Discovery Education. The show will be repeated over the year in different markets. Framed posters signed by the finalists and certificates were presented to representatives from participating institutes, centers and offices.

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