Lighthouse's Elizabeth Levinshteyn holding a science award trophy

Elizabeth Levinshteyn has earned serious science fair accolades this year for her project developing a test to detect mutations of the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Scientists from around the world tackled all kinds of research projects related to the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19 this last year. Elizabeth Levinshteyn, a 14-year-old middle school student at Lighthouse School was among them. Her chosen science fair topic was developing a new test to detect more mutations of the SARS-CoV2 virus.

“I knew little to nothing about it before the research, and while I am no expert, I know so much more now,” says Elizabeth.

Elizabeth used bioinformatics software and analyzed data on her computer. She learned how to work with the data resources and apply data to make a conclusion. Her project was recognized at the Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair in March with several awards:

  • Middle School State Gold Award, which recognizes the top 5 percent of projects presented and ranks them according to judges’ scores.
  • 3M Innovation Award: First Place Middle School, which recognizes projects applied to real-life situations where students are trying to improve the world around them.
  • Beckman Coulter Foundation Second Place Middle School Science Project, which recognizes excellence in science and engineering.
  • Broadcom Masters Award, which recognizes the top 10 percent of 6th, 7th & 8th grade students and invites them to apply to the Broadcom Masters Competition, a prestigious national STEM competition.

Elizabeth started competing in science fairs – the Elementary Science Olympiad – in third grade. Since then, she’s competed in both Elementary and Middle Science Olympiad for four years, as well as the Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair for two years.

A mind and passion for science

“I’ve always been curious about the world and constantly asked my parents and teachers questions when they popped into my head,” says Elizabeth. “I’m most proficient in math and science and this helped me to start asking and investigating scientific questions.”

Elizabeth believes her natural curiosity and drive to both ask questions and answer them makes scientific research a good fit for her.

“I try to be resourceful, which is very important with research because scientists run into myriad obstacles while conducting studies,” she says. “I really enjoy using my previous scientific knowledge to make inferences and observations even when I may not have an accurate answer to a particular question yet.”

She also appreciates that discoveries build on each other and that “people from completely different parts of the world are researching together and building off of one another’s work.”

“I also love how much of an impact science makes on everyday life and how it’s constantly changing,” says Elizabeth. “Our technology, houses, infrastructure, and so much more were once created and are being improved upon through science. Science can be the solution to thousands of problems people are facing all around the world.”

Teachers and mentors

Lighthouse's Elizabeth Levinshteyn with science experiments vials

Elizabeth started as a Northpoint kindergartener. She transitioned to Lighthouse School in third grade and has been there for six years. Her favorite kind of teacher is “strict but supportive and kind.” She’s had many she admires.

“Though much of my science inspiration comes from my mom (Biology Professor at Hamline University), I’ve definitely looked up to many of my teachers who helped me get to this point,” says Elizabeth.

At Lighthouse, Elizabeth has been supported in learning important skills – like how to work independently, how to talk about her work and present her ideas and how to tap into her creativity. 

“Though advisors are always there to help, I learned how to be proud if I did something myself,” she says. “I also learned how to communicate my work to others. I’ve never been one to think of amazing ideas on the spot, but Lighthouse has helped me learn how to brainstorm and apply creative thinking when I need to.”

The future

In the near future, Elizabeth hopes to continue to compete in the Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair. High-scoring students in grades 9-12 can advance past State to the International Science and Engineering Fair.

“Though it’s a difficult goal to accomplish, I hope to qualify sometime in high school!” says Elizabeth. “I will also be competing in High School Science Olympiad starting next year.”

Further down the road, Elizabeth aspires to have a career in science and maybe specialize in biotechnology or biomedical engineering.

“I think I’m more drawn to these subjects because many of the breakthroughs in them are relatively recent and very impactful to the modern world,” says Elizabeth. “Especially with the need for a solution to global warming and climate change becoming increasingly urgent, I think these fields have and will continue to contribute many possible solutions.” 

Lighthouse's Elizabeth Levinshteyn with science medals
Lighthouse's Elizabeth Levinshteyn performing science experiment