Toronto student among 9 Canadian youth to win awards at international STEM competition

Ten young scientists selected by Youth Science Canada are back from international competition in the US that many consider the most prestigious youth STEM project competition in the world. Brandon Rowe speaks with one of the local competitors.

By Brandon Rowe

A Toronto student has taken home second place at a prestigious international science and technology competition, one of nine Canadian youth to win an award.

“I was, needless to say, very ecstatic to hear the good news,” said Haolin Li, a member of Youth Science Canada.

Li, who is also a student at Crescent School in Toronto, was competing in the behaviour and social sciences category with his project on Decoding the Underlying Neural Activity of Neurodegeneration in Traumatic Brain Injury. 

“People with repeated Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) may not realize that, for example, 10 years down the line their decreased visual acuity is because of the brain injury that they had like years ago,” explained Li. “So my project focused on finding out a specific, new treatment for traumatic optic neuropathy to see if I can help these cells in your eyes survive post-injury,”

The Regeneron ISEF 2022 was held in Atlanta, Georgia last week, and featured young scientists from 50 to 60 countries around the world.

“[The event] brings together about 1,800 students from around the world and they are the best of the best of the youth STEM competitions from around the globe and so the quality of the projects is extremely high,” said Reni Barlow, executive director of Youth Science Canada. “To have our team to have won nine awards is an extraordinary accomplishment.”

Apart from a $2,000 prize that comes with winning second place, Li said the networking opportunities were one of the highlights.

“It was interesting to converse with people from all over the world and talk with them, even not in my category,” he said. “I was able to meet people from animal science or plant science, or translational medicine, building everlasting relationships with them and connections I feel like will last a long time after the competition.

Li plans to keep his project moving when he heads to a U.S.-based lab this summer to further study traumatic brain injuries.

“The lab that I’m working with and I found two significant genes that if we knocked them out, we were able to grant what we call neuroprotection, so your cells don’t die,” explained Li. “The next step for me is to go back to the drawing board in the lab to see if we can perhaps build on that.”

Young Canadian scientists wanting a spot at the next event are currently competing at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. The competition, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, is being held virtually in New Brunswick and runs until May 20.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today