When Jovanny Joseph, an eighth-grader at Timilty Middle School, told his mentor Jamie Heather, PhD, a researcher in the Cobbold Lab in the MGH Cancer Center, that he planned to create his own Tesla coil for the school’s annual science fair Feb. 6, Heather was impressed.

“I’m from the U.K. where we don’t really have science fairs,” says Heather. “All of the American movies I’ve seen led me to believe that the room would be filled with erupting volcano models, so I was shocked when my mentee told me his plan to test the electric field of a Tesla coil. When I volunteered to judge, I hadn’t seen the finished product so I was excited to see if it worked – and it did!”

Heather became a mentor to Joseph through the MGH’s long-standing partnership with Timilty Middle School in Roxbury. Every other Friday, the students visited their MGH mentors to work on their science fair projects, develop their hypotheses, discuss research strategies and put their presentations together.

More than 60 MGHers volunteered to judge the science fair this year, and 13 of the Timilty students in the MGH mentoring program have been selected to present their projects at the Boston citywide fair.

“It’s wonderful to see kids get excited about science, especially girls,” says Katia Canenguez, PhD, clinical fellow in Psychiatry. After reviewing the work of three eighth-grade girls, she said, “Their project documentationwas beautiful and they were so proud of their work. I hope they are inspired to fall in love with science just like I did at a young age.”

Rick Schrenker, systems engineering manager in Biomedical Engineering, is a veteran science fair judge. He began volunteering as a judge more than 20 years ago, then took a break and returned to the science fair last year re-inspired. “Each year the kids are bright-eyed and care a lot about the work they have done,” he says. “Every once in a while a student says, ‘I didn’t get what I expected,’ and that takes a lot of courage. That’s what science is. They didn’t go back and change their hypotheses just to be proven right and that’s brave to admit.” 

Read more articles from the 02/23/18 Hotline issue.