Michelle Sheikh’s Encore: The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

Well, folks, turns out that we have a double feature! If you read my last article, you would know that our very own senior, Michelle Sheikh, took first in the microbiology category of the Chandler Innovation Fair; even so, she seems to soar ever higher, recently placing sixth at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. In the words of her sponsor, Mrs. Rachna Nath, “JSHS is designed to challenge and engage students in STEM. Individual students compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting the results of their original research efforts. JSHS is a collaborative effort with the research arm of the Department of Defense and administered in cooperation with nationwide colleges and universities. JSHS aims to prepare and support students to contribute as future scientists and engineers–conducting STEM research on behalf or directly for the Department of Defense, the Federal research laboratories, or for the greater good in advancing the nation’s scientific and technological progress.” Excitingly enough, Mrs. Nath also received the “Teacher of the Year” award from JSHS! Without further ado, I, of course, had the chance to speak to Michelle once again about her triumph. Let’s get into it!

Q: How does it feel to place in such a prestigious and widespread competition?

A: It was incredibly rewarding to place! All the time and effort I spent into this project felt
validated since this was a larger statewide competition.

Michelle Sheikh

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your project? What are the next steps that you must take after this?

A: My project aims to create sustainable and affordable antibiotic alternatives through the
use of flavonoids which are phytochemicals that are found in nearly every fruit or
vegetable to serve as an antibiotic alternative for countries that have limited access to
antibiotics due to weak global drug supply chains. My next steps are to compete at
AZSEF! I also hope to continue working on this project during my undergraduate.

Q: How were you introduced to the idea of competing at JSHS? Were there any challenges along the way?

A: I was first introduced to the idea of competing at JSHS through Ms. Sims and Mrs. Nath
last year. This year, since it was a virtual presentation, I had a few technical issues and
also just competing virtually in general is a very different experience, I feel as though
there is a bit of a disconnect when competing because at times it didn’t even feel like a

Q: Who is someone you look up to in the STEM field and why?

A: I really look up to Nina Tandon!  She is the founder and CEO of EpiBone, a company
that grows bones for skeletal reconstruction. It allows practitioners to repair bone defects
in people by using the patient’s stem cells to grow new healthy bones in a lab
environment. It also means that the patient’s immune system will naturally accept the new
bone, rather than fighting against it. For me, her work is revolutionary in medicinal
science and someone who is currently researching in this field I find it really inspiring!

Q: Now, for another fun one! What’s your favorite microorganism?

A: Hmmm hard question! I would have to say bacteria since I work with it so much and
coincidentally at the competition icebreaker for JSHS one of the jokes that a competitor
made was, “what do you call a microorganism that listens to Classical music? Bach-teria.”

Michelle Sheikh

A big thank you and congratulations to both Michelle and Mrs. Nath for chatting with me! Remember, Knights, if you see them around campus, make sure to congratulate them as well! That’s all from me, so strive for the impossible, be extraordinary, and drink water, folks.