Concordia undergrad dominates science fairs around the world with his innovative research
At the age of 19, first-year exercise science student Shaan Baig is all at once a student, researcher, entrepreneur and public speaker.
Since being named a SHAD fellow in 2016 and becoming a junior member of the New York Academy of Sciences in 2017, Baig has worked with a number of top institutions such as Harvard University, McGill University, the Montreal Neurological Institute and the McGill University Health Centre.
More recently, he was named a 2020 Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation, making him one of the 35 young entrepreneurs from 18 countries who are addressing basic human needs through innovation.
What started out as a simple passion for science fair projects has now led Baig to become the founder and CEO of SB Innovations, where his research focuses on creating novel solutions for some of the most pressing issues around the world.
Each year, Baig selects an urgent global problem and sets out to develop a sustainable, low-cost solution to it. In the past, this research has included the development of an anti-concussion helmet, an alternative prostate cancer treatment and more.
His most recent project was the development of a novel molecular probe for minimally invasive early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
“After learning about my grandfather’s diagnosis of vascular dementia, I found out that one in three individuals will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in their lifetime,” Baig says.
The molecular probe he designed can actually be used as a drug delivery system for other diseases in the brain, he adds. For this reason, Baig was awarded the American Patent and Trademark Office Society Award at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2019.
‘Experience of a lifetime’
Since he was in grade six, Baig has annually competed in science fairs ranging from regional competitions to those at an international level. He has earned top awards for his innovative research at a variety of renowned and highly selective science fairs.
“I have competed at the Montreal Regional Science and Technology Fair (MRSTF) six times, the Super Expo-sciences Hydro-Québec three times, the Canada-Wide Science Fair two times, the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), Sanofi Biogenius Canada, Google Science Fair, the Milset Expo-Sciences International in Abu Dhabi and, most recently, the Taiwan International Science Fair,” says Baig.
He took home third place while representing Team Canada at the ISEF.
As these science fairs are only available to high school and CEGEP students, the Taiwan International Science Fair was the last event of this kind for which Baig was eligible. His featured project was developed during his final year as a health science student at Montreal’s Dawson College.
Baig was just one of two Canadians selected to compete. He earned the Young Scientist Award and first place in the Medicine and Health category.
“I was shocked to even place in my category, so to have been awarded best in fair was a dream,” Baig says. “Exploring the beautiful city of Taipei with fellow participants and local volunteers truly made it an experience of a lifetime.”
According to Baig, students from across the world showcased an impressive level of projects at the fair, including discovering ways to detect dark matter, developing an AI-powered visual program and aiding in spinal cord surgeries.
“These fairs allow you to meet the most inspiring, like-minded teens around the world and form incredible friendships,” Baig explains. “It has been truly humbling to represent both Concordia and Canada at the international level.”
Beyond the baking soda volcano
Baig says the endless hours spent in the lab and the countless all-nighters have been well worth it.
“Concordia has been the host and lead sponsor at the MRSTF for the past eight years, so I was very proud to represent an institution that fostered an event that has taken up such a big part of my life.”
Participating in science fairs has also given Baig the opportunity to speak on large platforms and global stages like TEDx and the United Nations. He says there is much more to science fairs than meets the eye — they’re not just about making baking soda volcanoes.
“Science fairs are very important,” Baig says. “They have shown me that neither your age nor the amount of degrees you have matter. Rather, it is those with a strong desire to better the world and the persistence to make something work who become great scientists.”
Due to university closures relating to COVID-19, Concordia’s Exposcience event scheduled for March 29, 30 and 31 has been cancelled. Follow updates on Shaan Baig’s website for news of a potential online science fair to come.