Science fair project wins Chatfield student trip to L.A.
CHATFIELD — Chatfield High School senior Spencer Gladis has combined his science and medical knowledge with his desire to cure multiple sclerosis into an award-winning science fair project.
Spencer will travel to Los Angeles in May to present his project at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest international pre-college science competition. According to the Society for Science website, the Intel-sponsored event provides an annual forum for more than 1,600 high students from nearly 60 countries, regions and territories to showcase their independent research.
Spencer chose MS research because he had a cousin diagnosed with the disease at age 16.
"That's young, too, because MS patients usually don't find out until they are in their 30s," Spencer said. "It's something my whole family embraced, and they've been doing research ever since."
The science fair project was conceived as part of an independent study class for Chatfield teacher Nora Gathje, who will accompany Spencer to Los Angeles for the Intel ISEF.
"I started out wanting to do this project because I had Mrs. Gathje for AP (advanced placement) biology last year, and I wanted to do an independent study for the senior biology class," he said. "She felt I could do it.
"I also found a MS lab that wanted to have students at Mayo Clinic."
Spencer said that he had a full-time job last summer in a Mayo Clinic neurology lab, where he worked with a researcher on possible treatments for multiple sclerosis.
"The lab really tried to immerse us in everything they could, taught us everything they could, and it enhanced what I learned in Mrs. Gathje's class," Spencer said.
When he had completed his research at Mayo, he wrote up his research paper, did an independent study and a PowerPoint presentation and poster. On Feb. 25, he brought his project to Winona State University for the Southeast Minnesota Regional Science Fair, which includes schools from southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Spencer said he was nervous because he had never participated in a science fair before.
"I didn't know what the caliber of projects would be," he said. "There were a lot of good projects — I didn't get a chance to look around because I was bombarded by questions the whole day."
After finding success at the regional fair, Spencer took his project to the state science fair in March, but not before tweaking his project based on what he learned from the judges at the regional fair.
Fair judges "don't judge you on where you went or how difficult the project is," Spencer said. "They judge you on how well you know the material and how you do the science experiments."
Spencer won a full sponsorship to the Intel ISEF — including hotel costs, airfare and registration fees — and partial registration fees for the Minnesota State Science Fair, as well at $1,000 from Winona State University, the U.S. Navy Science Award, $50 and a medal.
At the Intel ISEF, "best in category" winners are awarded $50,000 prizes, trips to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar in Sweden, and attendance at the Nobel Prize award ceremonies. The prize package also includes an all-expenses paid trip to the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, a $5,000 "best of category" award from Intel, and a cash award from Intel ISEF.
Spencer's plans after graduation are to eventually attend medical school.
"After high school, I want to go to college, but I haven't decided yet where," he said. "I want my medical doctorate. It's a fascination … I've been wanting to be a doctor since I was 6."