A Davis High senior who won one of two $1,000 scholarships awarded at the International Science Fair in Knoxville, Tenn., says he was drawn to medical research because of his natural curiosity.
Wade Geary competed with 720 students from 19 countries at the fair. In addition to the scholarship award, he won a $250 prize for his school from the American Medical Association and the competition's $500 first-place award.Winning isn't a new experience for Geary, who has been involved in science fair projects for the past 6 years and has collected more than 90 honors and recognitions. He has been recognized 17 times by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines for his medical-related research. In regional science fair competitions he has received 18 first-place awards and six American Society of Microbiologists awards.
Geary's subject of research has been "The Development of Functional Neuromuscular Junctions in Multiple Layer Tissue Culture to Induce Contraction of Vascular Smooth Muscle Through Electrical Stimulation of Sympathetic Neurons." Translated, that means he has conducted research into rehabilitating nerve tissue to restore muscle function damaged by injury or disease. Geary has been conducting the Ph.D.-level research at a lab at the University of Utah, one of the schools he is considering attending.
Geary said he has always been interested about how things work, and this led him into science fair competition. Like most who first become involved, his early projects were of the poster board and common bacteria variety.
"As I went to the fairs I saw all these other projects around me and was impressed by their quality," Geary said. "They weren't your typical Mickey Mouse variety.
"Then I got to thinking that I didn't want to do something somebody else had already tried. I wanted to be involved in original research."
During the development of his project, Geary spent about 30 to 35 hours a week in the U. lab and another five to 10 hours a week writing and reading research to keep abreast of what was happening in his area of research. "You have to read, to know what is going on out there," Geary said. "There is so much happening all the time that it is difficult to keep up with it all."
Geary said his goal is to become a research scientist in medically related areas of microbiology or cellular biology once he finishes his education. He is considering several schools, including Princeton, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the University of California at Berkeley in addition to the U.
While research is his forte, that part of his career is on the back burner while he participates in a variety of competitions. Last week he was in Tennessee, this weekend he'll be in Florida and in June in Washington, D.C.
Despite the hours involved in research and competition, Geary finds time to be involved in school intra-mural activities, skiing, backpacking and soccer. "I do manage to lead a fairly active social life. Most people think scientists spend all their life in a lab but I have found that most of us involved in these competitions are very active socially as well."
Will there be other scientists from the Geary family? "Well, my sister entered her first science fair this year so I guess we'll find out if it runs in the family," Geary joked.
Tim Hunt, Geary's high school adviser, said Geary is one of the most talented students he has worked with. " His natural curiosity is his most important contribution to science, along with his ability to use that curiosity to design and carry out an original experiment while working independently."
Why is he doing all of this? Geary said he is convinced that his work will have direct application in medical treatment for those that suffer muscular damage as a result of accident or disease.