22 April 2021

Posters from before they were famous: A dream project

 Recognize the woman below? (It might be easier if you’re American.)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with her Intel 2007 science fair project.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with her Intel 2007 science fair project and Yorktown high school teacher Michael Bluegrass.

Alexandria explaining her project to Craig Barrett, retired Chief Executive Officer/Chairman of the Board, Intel Corporation and Society Board of Trustees member.

It’s federal politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, eleven years before she was elected to the American House of Representatives in 2018. When she was in high school, Ocasio-Cortez was a second place finisher in her category in the 2007 International Science and Engineer Fair.

Yes, technically she is not presenting a poster, she is presenting a tri-fold. But I will let it go to make my point.

Lots of people present posters at conferences. Some of them go on to become better known than the average student. 

Ocasio-Cortez is unusual but not alone in being a politcian in her science background. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a scientific career. Before that, Margaret Thatcher did an undergraduate chemistry dissertation.

I once spotted a poster co-authored by filmmaker James Cameron (whose interest in deep sea exploration is well known; pretty sure he only contributed samples and was not involved in making the poster).

Many well-known scientists have probably given posters at some point in their careers, too. Nobel prize winners have given posters. Science communicators who write books and appear on late-night talk shows have given posters. You know, the “rock star” scientists.

I wonder if Carl Sagan ever gave a poster.

I would love a project that showed these people with their posters. I would love to hear them talk about their poster session experiences. I would love to show students, “Look, what you’re doing is something that even science ‘celebrities’ did. They made posters, too.”

External links

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a prestigious science-fair prize for research involving free radicals

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez puts Yorktown Heights on the map 

Intel ISEF alumna headed to Capitol Hill


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