June 27, 2019

By: Tanaz Muhamed

Between academics, school theater and community service, I stay plenty busy and active throughout the school year. And while each of these activities brings me a sense of joy and the chance to practice valuable leadership skills, STEM has always held a special place in my heart.

I’ve always been a fan of science; it’s been my favorite subject for as long as I can remember. In first grade, I competed in my very first science fair. Long before it became a mandatory to participate in the science fair, I was eager to share my research.

It was in seventh grade when my hobby turned into something more serious. Recognizing the potential to produce research that could someday impact my community or even the world, that was the year that the science fair became more of a science competition. I was exposed to a whole new and exciting style of research at the state level and learned exactly how I could contribute to the field, not just as a student but as a leader and researcher. Now as a high school student in Texas, I have competed in 11 STEM competitions – and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon!

One of the most interesting and rewarding competitions that I’ve had the opportunity to participate in is Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS). Though it is my first year in the competition, JSHS continues to push me to expand my abilities as a young researcher. My project the year focused on computational cognitive neuroscience, or when researchers use statistics, computer science and math to draw patterns in human behavior. By creating computer code for an online game, I looked at how exposure to competitive motivation influenced an individual’s likelihood of being happy. My current research differs slightly, as I have shifted my study to the effects of cognitive load (a fancy term for an occupied mind) on its susceptibility to cognitive bias.

As I look to the future, I know that STEM will always be an integral part of my life. STEM brings out the best in me, requiring the use of both creativity and analytics to tackle some of life’s most interesting questions. There is truly nothing in this world more exciting than learning something new from your research and subsequently sharing your discoveries with others.

As a young girl competing in STEM, I have found a community that I now consider a family. Whenever I go to competitions, I get to meet so many like-minded young women whose main goal is to empower one another, with or without the additional validation of winning. I would like every young girl to know the joy that I have through STEM.

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