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Sophia He: World Science Scholar

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Sophia He: World Science Scholar

Photo courtesy of Sophia He

Photo courtesy of Sophia He

Photo courtesy of Sophia He

Luna Wang, Senior Staff Writer

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  Senior Sophia He was accepted as one of 45 students worldwide into the World Science Scholars program launching for the first time this year by the World Science
Festival.
  “We were really looking for an opportunity to find students such as Sophia who were extremely talented in mathematics, who showed exceptional ability and interest,” said World Science Scholars Director Mark German.
  “We wanted to be able to identify these students worldwide and provide them an opportunity to apply their skills into different disciplines and hope that they could use these skills to tackle the world’s greatest challenges.”
  German said the students will engage online with mentors to develop understanding of coursework as well as collaborate with peers in research and projects that they will present at the end of the year at the World Science Festival.
  “In terms of the World Science Festival, the mission of the organization is to cultivate a general passion toward science, inspired by its wonder to promote prosperity, and
to prepare to engage in education for the future,” said German.
  “The World Science Scholars website said that students would get to work together to apply science to real life, and that just seemed so cool, because we learn about math and science in school. We’re always in the classroom, and we do learn about the outside world, but we don’t really get to experience the ways it applies to the outside world,” said He.
  “So with the World Science Scholars program, they offer opportunities for group projects that you can actually submit to the top scientists, and they’ll view them and green light your project. You can start projects with other kids internationally, and then at the end of the year, you can meet up at the World Science Festival and present your project,” said He. “It’s very cool and very hands-on, which is something that I feel like is missing from my life in the regular school environment.”
  German said there are many individuals that support the learning and growth of the students.
  “At the course level, the course is co-designed with a leading expert in the field who serves as the professor for the course. In addition to the professor, we have teaching fellows who support the learning. Teaching fellows typically cater the graduate teaching assistants who work with the professor,” said German.
  “Not all our professors are in higher education at colleges and universities-many of them are researchers in the field, and so they, however, are individuals in the organization that have deep knowledge of the content, so the teaching fellows provide guidance to the students,” said German.
  German said the World Science Scholars program also has the World Science Festival Education Team supporting the students.
  “As we go further, the goal is to be able to find local STEM mentors who are either in the community or who have specialized knowledge in an area of interest to the students to support them in their growth and learning,” said German.
  According to He, the students have accounts on an online interface where the program releases comprehensive online courses.
  “It’s very tailored, so you get to suggest in the forum like ‘I’m interested in this,’ or ‘This topic is cool,’ and then they bring all that feedback together, and they come up with a course and then . . . release it,” said He.
  “There’s videos, and there’s a real time workshop that you can do online, quizzes, and games that you can play to really understand the material,” said He. “And it’s stuff that you wouldn’t really find in school, it’s not just chemistry or biology. It’s very niche topics, so like quantum mechanics, or things about black holes, or the neurons of the brain, so smaller topics that are interesting.”
  “Our intent is that with each year, we add a new cohort of students, and returning after the students participate in the program, they become a part of the alumni network and part of the larger role of science … and play a role to help to identify and support students who will follow in their footsteps,” said German.
  “We have the application process online, and the application consists of what students submit as well as a nomination from an educator or parent,” said German. “So we have an internal and external review committee who are trying to find the best students who match critical profiles and potential, and then we invite those students to become a World Science Scholar.”
  German said the World Science Scholars program accepts both students that are self-nominated as well as students nominated by others.
 “Kind of the larger role of the World Science Festival is the network of leading experts who typically will hear stories of parents who will approach them, especially in other countries, where they believe that their sons and daughters don’t have access to great opportunities,” said German.
  “In addition to the nominations and students who step forward, we also have recruiting partners, some of those recruiting partners were from some of the gifted and talented programs nationally, some of them are from different competitions,” said German. “If you look at Sophia in particular, she had participated in the Advantage Testing Foundation Math Prize for Girls, and that organization was one of our recruiting partners, which meant that they helped announce the opportunity to girls who had participated in their competition.”
  According to Sophia He, the Math Prize for Girls competition that recruited her for the World Science Scholars program is an invitational hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for girls that qualify for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME).
  “It’s designed to foster women in science, technology, engineering, and math because I think right now there are less than a thousand girls every year that qualify for AIME, so it’s a pretty small number, but you go there, and you compete literally for a prize,” said He. “They give out scholarships for women in STEM.”
  “I do the American Math Competition (AMC), and I qualified for AIME twice; it’s like the next tier in this math sequence,” said He. “It’s like an international competition.”
German said what the review committee really liked about Sophia was that she was very balanced.
  “She expressed many different interests in policy debate, in music, she talked about her violin, and math. So we’re looking for students such as Sophia who have kind of a
long history and dedication to mathematics in particular, and we see that she’s competed both at the state and national level, and . . . she expressed interest in both chemistry and pre-law,” said German.
  Sophia He said she’s been on the varsity Math Team at Wayzata for three years, which also does different competitions offered throughout the year, such as Math Madness and Mandelbrotician.
  “I’m also part of the Minnesota All-State Math Team they travel to competitions, so every year I go to the American Regions Mathematics League (ARML) competition,” said He. “It’s in Iowa, it’s pretty fun, and we get to compete in a variety of different events, you know, like team events, relay events, individual stuff, there’s a power
competition in which you get to try unconventional forms of math.”
  He also attended the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP) in the past. German said the Education branch of the World Science Festival had over a year to plan and determine the desired approach for World Science Scholars, including starting to have conversations with the professors, building the online learning platform, and finding the students.
  “We’re seeing this cohort as really a pilot opportunity, and the plan is to be able to learn from this year and keep being able to make changes based on what we see as
working well and feedback from students that come in for future years,” said German.
  “I don’t know anyone else at Wayzata that applied, because it wasn’t super publicized. I don’t think there’s another person from Minnesota in it,” said He. “There’s
people from China, Mexico, India, and the U.S.” He said there is a group chat for the students and that she participated in the live kick-off in meeting and talking to other students online.
  “It’s kind of hard, because everyone’s in a different time zone, but people post in the forum all the time, and then you can respond to them and start conversations,” said He.

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