ELIZABETH, NJ — Rabonika Islam is a 16-year-old student at Elizabeth High School’s Frank J. Cicarell Academy. She’s working with Rishad Jain, an undergraduate researcher at Harvard University, who was also named as one of TIME’s 25 Most Influential Teens and America’s Top Young Scientist, to build the very first International Research Olympiad in 2024. Their mission is to help students hone their research skills.
Islam, who is the director of program operations for the IRO, said students will work with professors and be prepared for scientific research. The goal is to introduce as many students as possible to science research and meritocratically reward those who develop skills that are helpful.
A large majority of students from grades six to 12 lack the authentic research skills to make a practical contribution. With the creation of this competition, however, Islam foresees cultivating a new generation of scientists from a young age.
According to Islam, the IRO will distribute tests which students will take online to “make sure no one cheats and everything goes as smoothly as possible.”
In upcoming years, the IRO board plans on administering examinations on a country basis, running a camp and hosting finals at Harvard University in Cambridge. If funding is available, finals may be at Harvard this year.
The 2024 IRO, overseen by the Samyak Science Society, a nonprofit promoting science research and STEM education, seeks to join the group of global science competitions. Guided by Jain, the IRO aims to foster a passion for research and expand globally, with plans for country-based open examinations, semi-finals and finals for gold, silver and bronze awards in the future.
As director of program operations, Islam is communicating the word to the general public about IRO. “We have about 2500 pre-registers,” she said. “That’s a big deal. We’re pretty proud of how much progress we have made so far.”
Islam is interested in biological sciences and biomedical engineering with a background in healthcare and mental health services, in order to “give back to the community.”
She said, “If I work hard enough, I want to make as big of an impact as I can. Something revolutionary.”
Inspired by her teachers, Islam said, “Growing up, those are the people I could use as a role model. They’ve had a big impact on my life and helped me become the person I am now.”
When Islam isn’t studying, he likes to relax and watch TV shows. “My comfort TV shows are like Grey’s Anatomy,” she said.
To learn more about the International Research Olympiad, visit https://internationalresearcholympiad.com/.
Photo Courtesy of Rabonika Islam