It teaches the kids that studying science is just a way to build up a CV for college applications, rather than something that is fascinating and potentially a boon to mankind.

A few years ago, I was at a research conference, and decided to attend a talk whose title interested me. In fact, the title seemed vaguely familiar; as I waited for the talk to start, I suddenly realized why: The young man presenting the talk had been an Intel award winner earlier that year, and his mentor was a professor whom I knew somewhat. This professor has mentored many such high school contestants. Well, the young man gave a great talk, but in the Q&A it became clear that his knowledge of his research was superficial. He gave answers like, “I don’t know; you’d have to ask my research adviser.” Again, it was an outstanding talk, very polished and professional, and my hat is off to the student. But the research that won him that award wasn’t his.


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