Ukrainians are finalists Regeneron International Fair of Science and Engineering: NPR


Dmytriy Omelyanov is working with his fellow student on a project involving cockroaches. They will compete at the science fair virtually from Ukraine.

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Dmytriy Omelyanov is working with his fellow student on a project involving cockroaches. They will compete at the science fair virtually from Ukraine.

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Sofiia Smovzh, Serhii Kolomiichuk and Dmytriy Omelyanov are 17-year-old high school students from Ukraine. They were attending a national science fair in Kiev this morning when Russia launched an attack on their country.

Kolomiichuk and Omelyanov are from the Dnieper, in central Ukraine. On February 24, while hearing the explosions in Kiev, they set off on a long journey home on a full train.

“Since there were only a huge number of people, we had to sleep two people on the upper bed,” says Kolomiichuk. Morning edition. “People slept for 10 hours wherever they could – on the floor, in the lobby and just sitting. Upon arriving home – we were awaited by constant warnings of an air attack.”

Smovzhov’s family left Kyiv.


Sofia Smovzh’s work includes cancer treatment. She will compete at the Paris Science Fair, where she moved during the war.

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Sofia Smovzh’s work includes cancer treatment. She will compete at the Paris Science Fair, where she moved during the war.

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“My family moved to western Ukraine on the first day of the war,” she says. “I have a little sister and we didn’t want her to listen to all the sounds of explosions.”

Her mother and sister now live in Spain. Her stepfather remained in Ukraine, and she now lives in France.

“The atmosphere in Ukraine when you sit and read the news – it’s very difficult to focus on learning and that’s why I moved to Paris,” she explains.

Smovzh, Kolomiichuk and Omelyanov are now finalists at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta this week. There are 1,750 finalists from around the world – many in person for the first time in two years.

Kolomiichuk, Omelyanov and Smovzh compete virtually.


Serhiy Kolomiichuk is from the Dnieper in Ukraine. He is working with Omelyan on a cockroach project.

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Serhiy Kolomiichuk is from the Dnieper in Ukraine. He is working with Omelyan on a cockroach project.

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Smovzh aims to find less toxic drugs for cancer. Kolomiichuk and Omelyanov are working on a joint project involving cockroach research.

“Cockroaches are carriers of many parasites,” says Omelyanov. “People have long since learned to deal with these insecticide insects, but they have already become a problem. We are finding non-toxic aromatic mixtures that can become a complete substitute for insecticides.”

While working in difficult circumstances, Smovzh talks about what it means to be a finalist at ISEF.

“For me, it’s more than just individual participation and winning something or not winning something,” she says. “I am studying and preparing for ISEF to show that Ukraine is a strong and independent country and that we are strong in all areas, including science.”

This story originally appeared in Morning edition live blog.

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