Malaysian-born teen shines at international science fair

Tanisha after winning the grand prize at the Salt Lake Valley Science & Engineering Fair in Utah. — Picture by Malay Mail
Tanisha after winning the grand prize at the Salt Lake Valley Science & Engineering Fair in Utah. — Picture by Malay Mail

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PETALING JAYA, May 21 — At 17, Waterford School junior Tanisha Martheswaran has already decided on her future job, one that is so rare, and at a time when people are not even sure what the job entails — a physician-scientist.

Having migrated to Utah in the United States with her parents a decade ago, Tanisha stood out as an early bloomer, being top in her class, and developing her love for all things scientific before peers her age even had an inkling on what the wide world of science was all about.

“The atmosphere at the Salt Lake Valley Science & Engineering Fair in March was absolutely amazing. It certainly was a great experience just being there,” said the teenager, who was placed first at the fair, during a recent interview.

“There were 150 projects presented that day in the upper school category in which I was a part of. Seeing all the various projects was somewhat exhilarating, and I learnt quite a lot from just checking out other project presentations.”

As there are so many components in science, from environmental science, to biological science, and even technological science, the fair was a goldmine of information.

“It was rather exhausting working through the last couple of months to come up with my presentation, but it was worth it when I saw how it turned out in the end,” she said.

More recently, she was involved in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in Los Angeles, California. It started on Sunday and ended on Friday.

Intel ISEF is the world’s largest global pre-college science competition which unites top young scientific minds, showcasing their talents on an international stage. Doctoral level scientists judged this competition. 

Almost 1,800 high school students from over 75 countries got the opportunity to showcase their independent research and compete for about US$4 million (RM17.29 million) in prizes each year.

The brainy teenager presented her winning project at the fair titled: “Waste Embraced 2.0: A novel study of the effects of optimised precipitation on biogas production and resource recovery from municipal landfill leachate and wastewater centrate”, which deeply impressed judges and the audience.

Difficult though it was to comprehend, Tanisha explained the idea behind the project, in layman’s terms, is simply “using waste products from landfill and turning them into something beneficial for the community”.

Ever since she began high school, she  developed a passion for using neglected resources to create something that could contribute to the betterment of the environment.

“The two things I am really passionate about are a blend of energy and environmental engineering. I used both elements in my project and I was excited to present it to the judges.”

“After two and a half years of hard work, it was amazing to get this opportunity to participate in this international fair,” said Tanisha, who only on Friday bagged the fourth prize at the Intel ISEF’s Environmental Engineering category in Los Angeles.

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