Written by: Cebo Cruz

The International Science Youth Forum (ISYF 2019) is an annual gathering of young aspiring scientists to showcase their work to a global audience. It is organized by the student body at Hwa Chong Institution, in partnership with Nanyang Technological University. The event does not only center on the research forum, but also aims to foster participants’ analytical and teamwork skills through a 5-day team project, to broaden scientific knowledge with visits to top-ranking universities, and to widen perspectives on science through closed-door meetups with STEM experts.

Delegates of ISYF were divided into teams and were tasked to create a Rude-Goldberg machine from a limited budget and 5-day time frame

This year’s roster of speakers were exceptionally diverse: from revered biochemists and physicists, to inspiring Nobel Prize winners. I was particularly blessed to join an audience with Zee Upton, a world-renowned tissue engineer, who is known for her work in biomedical engineering and molecular, biochemical, and cellular biology.

Upton’s research centers on state-of-the-art technologies and discoveries for medical advancements, such as growth factors for faster healing of wounds and scar remediation. Beyond the barriers of biochemistry, she has also delved into interdisciplinary research by incorporating concepts of physics and materials science in her work. Presently, she is the executive director at the Institute of Medical Biology in A*STAR or the ‘agency for science, technology, and research’ in Singapore.

One of the highlights of Upton’s presentation was when she expressed her joy about the increasing gender diversity in STEM. She emphasized on the wonders women are capable of creating when they are given the chance to freely express themselves, work without barriers, and pursue their passions unchained by gender discrimination. She cited how historic women like Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin made it much easier for today’s women to have a role in science and technology with their discoveries and inventions that changed the course of humanity. Truly, what was promising was the rising number of recognized female scientists and researchers, and how successful developments in STEM have been with their active participation in the field.

What I was quite ecstatic to witness was how the presence of women was not only felt in the confines of the closed-door meet-up with Zee Upton. The entire event gleamed with women empowerment, given the enormous volume of young female scientists who participated in the event. Some of the friends I made during the gathering were top-performing female high schoolers who excel in their field despite their naivety. Some were passionate about microbiology, others for agricultural technology, and the rest interested in a myriad of scientific endeavors. Even the two head organizers of the event were passionate women aiming for careers in STEM.

One of Professor Upton’s greatest beliefs is that innovation is located in the ‘white spaces’ between disciplines. Likewise, innovation can only be achieved once the ‘white space’ of gender equality is brought to life. With the growing acceptance of women in STEM, it seems as though science shall witness unhindered progress as it is accelerated by the gender diversity present among the youth. And as members of the future generation leading the world, it is our role to enable progress by paving the way for equality and diversity.

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All images were sourced from the photographers of the International Science Youth Forum 2019

Cebo Cruz is a Grade 12 Student in Philippine Science High School – Main Campus (Pisay), with a passion for Chemistry, History, and Geography. Aside from his school duties, he is a member of Pisay’s MUN and Yearbook teams. Moreover, WiTech has been an outlet for him to express his advocacy of maximizing women’s potential and promote equality among all.

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