Celebrating Classroom Discoveries and the Future of Life Sciences

Aditi Avinash presenting her project at the 2023 Colorado State Science and Engineering Fair at Colorado State University.

The Colorado BioScience Institute (The Institute) takes great pride in celebrating the remarkable achievements and groundbreaking discoveries made by students in the field of life sciences. Every year, The Institute joins the Colorado State Science and Engineering Fair at Colorado State University with a panel of special judges. This year, an inaugural award was introduced to recognize visionary thinking and pioneering approaches—the Future of Life Sciences Award. 

This forward-looking award seeks to honor students who exhibit exceptional creativity and innovation in their life sciences projects, with a specific emphasis on futuristic methodologies and their potential impact on the field. Through this accolade, the Institute aims to foster a spirit of exploration and inspire young minds to push the boundaries of scientific knowledge and contribute to the constantly evolving advancements of life sciences.

This year, hundreds of students from middle school and high school presented their science fair projects at the Colorado State University campus. The Institute’s panel of judges eagerly awaited the opportunity to engage with the talented scientific-minded students. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to this year’s special award judges; Justin Sellers, Tolmar, and Natalie Allen, for their dedication to nurturing scientific talent and fostering innovation. By recognizing outstanding achievements, this award builds a connected community of passionate individuals who will shape the future of the life sciences ecosystem and contribute to our state’s leadership in this field.

Our 2023 Future of Life Sciences Award winner is Aditi Avinash, an 11th grader  from Rock Canyon High School with her  project, Model Validation and Preclinical Testing of Digestive Enzymes for Gluten Breakdown. 

Aditi first saw the immediate effects from her family and friends that suffer with celiacs disease. She realized that with 3 million Americans with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, living with caution and regulating every food is a daily struggle. “Inspired by a Biology class on enzymes, I aim to face the problem head-on and help those who suffer from gluten intolerance. What if I could solve this problem that I’ve seen effect those that I care about?” described Aditi. In her previous research, she identified three fruit enzymes that are effective and synergistic in the breakdown of gluten when combined in a 1:2:3 ratio of Papain:Bromelain:Actindin respectively. This year, she proposed two models of how these enzymes can act together to potentially degrade the gluten molecule.

Aditi Avinash in the lab.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Aditi overcame obstacles by conducting her research remotely during her freshman year by using at-home test kits and researching literature reviews. Her persistence earned her a special award from the University of Arizona at The Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. In the following year, she found an innovative solution by collaborating with a professor at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, allowing her to conduct research both at her school’s biotechnology lab and with her mentor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“My school and community have provided incredible support, with a robust Biotechnology program that has nurtured my passion for science and research,” says Aditi. The dedicated staff, particularly her inspiring teacher, Ms. Petri, have been instrumental in encouraging and guiding her. She looks forward to more research opportunities and programs tailored for high-school students, as most tend to focus on collegiate-level participants.

What I love about the field of medicine is how diverse it is and how it would allow me to explore my many interests thoughtfully and carefully,” said Avinash.

Aditi has found many avenues to cultivate creative solutions through her love of music. Her involvement through music has taught her life lessons of teamwork and importance of precision as the president of her school’s treble choir and a participant in the Colorado All-State Choir. For her, the steady rhythm represents resilience and perseverance. “It reminds me to stay focused on my goals and embrace life’s challenges with unwavering determination, just like a music note that continues to play despite any mistakes,” she describes.  From her earliest memories of dancing with family and singing lullabies with her grandmother, music has been her solace and passion. She can take what she has learned and cary that throughout her other passions.

Aditi Avinash speaking at Rock Canyon High School December choir concert.

Aditi’s ultimate aspiration is to attend medical school to become an M.D./Ph.D. This career path would enable her to merge her passion for research with a genuine sense of clinical empathy, providing both intellectual engagement and direct patient care. By volunteering at Skyridge Medical Center and training as a Certified Nursing Assistant, she has witnessed the emotional impact of hospitalization on patients and their families. Aditi is driven to pursue a career in healthcare to ensure patients feel heard, trusted, and supported during challenging times. She told the Institute that she finds the diverse and interdisciplinary nature of medicine deeply appealing. Through continued work in a hospital environment this summer, she will strive to deepen her understanding of medical health while emphasizing the significance of empathy and kindness in patient care. With unwavering determination and persistence, Aditi described how she is committed to excelling in both research and clinical practice.

With an unwavering passion for science and an insatiable curiosity, Aditi described how she is constantly driven to seek understanding and embark on new paths of discovery. The ever-changing and limitless nature of science resonates with her inquisitive spirit – “Whether I’m studying insects or unraveling the complexities of Celiac disease, I’m inspired by role models like Elizabeth Blackwell and guided by my remarkable teachers and mentors, such as my mentor at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Dr. Sujatha Venkatarman, and my Regional Fair Directors Dr. Erin Golden, Ms. Kayla Ahr, and Ms. Samantha Sands; And of course my high school biology teacher Ms. Petri. I aspire to conduct research and contribute towards finding a potential solution for celiac disease and gluten intolerance in the future,” says Aditi.

Aditi Avinash presented with a certificate acknowledging that she will represent Colorado at International Science and Engineering Fair.

As we celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of students at the Colorado State Science and Engineering Fair, we also recognize the power of a support network and guidance through community. The Future of Life Sciences Award is a testament to the collective dedication of the Colorado BioScience Institute and Colorado’s life sciences community to cultivate and diversify the state’s life sciences workforce, from classroom, to campus, to career.