America's top high school science students are children of immigrants

Justin Carissimo

America's next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians are more likely to have parents from a country outside the United States. The revelation is ironic considering the sitting President’s disregard for facts, climate science, and people who do not look like him.

According to a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy, researchers found that 83 percent (33 of 40) of finalists of the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search were children of parents who immigrated to America. This year the leading science competition was renamed to the Regeneron Science Talent Search where high schools are competing in Washington DC.

To put the achievement in perspective, Steve Anderson, the study’s author, explained in Forbes that both family and employment-based immigrants were four times more likely to have a child as a finalist in last year’s competition, which is often considered the “Junior Nobel Prize.”

“In fact, 75% – 30 out of 40 – of the finalists had parents who worked in America on H-1B visas and later became green card holders and US citizens,” he writes. “That compares to seven children who had both parents born in the United States.”

The parents’ countries of origins spanned from China, India, Canada, Cyprus, Iran, Japan, Nigeria, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the US. According to the study’s findings, more than 95 percent of the winners go on to pursue careers in science. At least 70 percent of these students wind up earning PhD’s or MD’s.

Mr Anderson, who also serves as the foundation’s executive director, said the students are increasing their influence in and outside the competition.

“Sixty percent (24 of 40) of the finalists of the 2004 Intel Science Talent Search had at least one immigrant parent. In 2011, that proportion rose to 70% (28 of 40) who had at least one immigrant,” he writes. “And in 2016, the number rose again to 83% (33 of 40) of the finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search who had at least one immigrant parent.”

Last year, Maya Varma won the First Place Medal of Distinction for Innovation for creative problem-solving skills by using $35 worth of hobbyist electronics to create a smartphone-based lung function analyzer that diagnoses lung disease just as accurately as expensive devices used in medical facilities.

Both of her parents immigrated to the US from India as students to become engineers. “My parents encouraged my early love for engineering,” she told Mr Anderson in an interview. “When I was young I remember watching my Dad code on the computer.”

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