How to save the world (in a science competition)

Exposure to real life problems may be overwhelming at times. However, in the context of a science case competition and taking on the role of a researcher, it can be a fun way to approach such complex problems.

On January 18, I participated in the science case competition organized by SCI Team and the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS), along with three other first-year science students.

Each participating group was given the same global health issue of a spreading virus and each group was required to apply their research skills to find solutions on the matter.

When initially presented with the case, I felt somewhat incapable of finding a solution or composing a high-level research proposal. Knowing that we would compete with third or fourth-year pharmacology or microbiology students also made things a bit difficult. I knew that with my current scientific and research knowledge on anything virus-related, I was not as experienced as my competitors. Indeed that was understandable due to their higher course level. However, the fact that we worked together gave me a great sense of teamwork.

Before the judges arrived at our table, we looked around the posters in the room to see what ideas and proposals other students had created. The variety of research ideas and plan proposals was outstanding and inspiring. The idea that students from different science backgrounds came together to solve a pressing issue had me think of how many different approaches can be taken to formulate a successful solution in the real world.

My group’s proposal was taken from the perspective of public health and policymaking to stop the spreading of the virus. We looked into preventative measures an individual could take such as bug spray, wearing long sleeves and using bed nets. Additionally, our health campaign proposal presented three steps:

  • Spread awareness on the issue to health professionals, policymakers and the general public,
  • Have ongoing surveillance research on the evolution of the virus in the community
  • Take preventative measures at the level of the individual

Other groups looked into things such as creating vaccines or developing new transport technologies to prevent the further spread of the virus. A couple of research proposals were targeting gene manipulation of the virus-carrying mosquito.

After all the groups presented to three rounds of judges, it was time for the finalist groups to be chosen. The judges announced the top six finalists and they battled their projects off in front of the other participants. Unfortunately, we did not place in the top six.

This event was a valuable experience as far as public speaking and analyzing complex problems such as the one of a devastating virus go. I have definitely been inspired to continue researching on the issue and I am definitely considering taking part of the competition next year.