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Magnet seniors present research at Japanese competition
Carlan Ivey presents his research to a student at the 2014 Japanese Super Science High School Student Fair. - photo by Submitted Photo

Carlan Ivey and Larry Jacobs, both seniors at Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, were recently recognized for outstanding research presentations at the 2014 Japanese Super Science High School Student Fair. This is the first time that an American school has been invited to exhibit at the annual Japanese student science competition that brings together over 5,200 of the top student scientists across Japan. Rockdale Magnet School was the only school from the United States among the 23 international schools that presented.

"Presenting to the international students was certainly difficult. If communicating conversationally between Japanese and English weren't hard enough, communicating scientifically seemed all but impossible at times," Larry Jacobs said about presenting his work to an international audience. His research looked at enhancing pancreatic islet function in an obese mouse model.

Ivey presented his work on comparing particle detection methods to observe atmospheric interactions.

"You have to learn the basics of your research very clearly so that you can communicate the aim and goal of your project as clearly as possible. It is important to make it relate to them too so that they care," Ivey said about his experience presenting both a poster and 10 minute talk on his project.

Amanda Baskett, assistant director of the Magnet School, was contacted by the fair organizers in late spring and organized a student application for the trip.

"Seeing these two students be so successful in such a different environment made me proud not only of them, but also the Magnet School in general. It is clear that Carlan and Larry are prepared to be leaders in science," Baskett said.

The students and Baskett spoke about the history of their school at the opening reception on Tuesday, August 5, and learned origami from local students at a welcome workshop. On Wednesday, August 6, students presented both a poster and oral presentation of their work. The students' presentations were well received as both had full audiences and questions from both Japanese and German participants. They also had the opportunity to hear from Kayo Inaba, a leading Japanese researcher on dendritic cells and the immune response. On Thursday, the delegation attended the final competition round for the Japanese students and were given tokens of appreciation from the Japan Science and Technology Agency.

"Among the multitude of things that I have like about Japan, I believe its hospitality stood out most to me. A friendly and helpful spirit was reflected in almost every encounter that I had," Jacobs said.

Jacobs, Ivey and Baskett will return home Saturday after spending Friday traveling with students from India and Chinese Taipai to visit the Japan Agency for Marine- Earth Science and Technology and Yokohoma City University.

"The Japanese culture is very unique throughout the average day; this ranges from the way you greet individuals to how you eat at a restaurant. However, I have found that American culture has made an impact in Japan", Ivey said.

This is not the first time that either student have been recognized at international competitions, but it is the first time they have traveled abroad for research. Ivey won a silver medal at the 2013 International Sustainable World Project Olympiad and Jacobs won third place along with his partner Chelse Steele at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Ivey's work was supervised by his research teachers, Scott Bolen and John Hendrix, as well as his mentors Xiaochun He and Carola Butler from Georgia State University. Jacob's research was supervised by his research teachers, Amanda Baskett and Mary Mansell, as well as his mentors Sue McClatchy and Gary Churchill from the Jackson laboratory in Maine.

Mentorship stood out to both students as they reflected on their success.

Jacobs said that aspiring young scientists should "Start as early as you can-- which is probably much earlier than you think! And don't be afraid to approach qualified scientists; they might be just as willing to give you a helping hand as you are eager to receive one."