Beyond the Pitch

Mariah Cox, Zane Trace High School Junior, Receives VentureNEXT Student Award

Mariah Cox, a junior at Zane Trace High School in Chillicothe, OH, and winner of the 2014 VentureNEXT Student Award, first encountered the scientific method when she was in the fourth grade.

Her first science experiment—the beginners’ classic—was observing yeast rising at different temperatures of water.

Since then, Mariah’s experiments and projects have become more original and more mature.

“I went from yeast and temperatures to working with plants, then into a couple of health field projects,” she said, “and then to raspberries.”

And she participated in sciences fairs.  In ninth grade, she received a Superior rating at local, regional and state Ohio Academy of Science competitions and was a National FFA finalist.

Mariah says it doesn’t bother her when something doesn’t work.  “That’s why you are experimenting,” she says.  “If it doesn’t work, that means you get to figure out why.  It’s like Thomas Edison said, in inventing the light bulb, he figured 110 ways how not to invent it.”

Researching raspberries to improve human health

Mariah is studying the differences in phenolic and phytochemical compounds and the glucosidase enzyme inhibition properties in golden raspberries.  The real life applications could be lowering blood pressure and/or glucose levels in humans.

It’s not that she always had a passion for raspberries; it is that she has a curiosity and a passion for the scientific method.

“I have a questioning attitude,” Mariah said.  “In science, curiosity is considered a strength.”

Choosing what to study was something Mariah had to think about.

“It isn’t something that just comes off the top of my head,” she said.  “You have to ask yourself, what are the topics that interest you?  What would be an interesting question?  Then name a few questions and develop a plan to answer the question(s).”

Mariah’s raspberry research has really taken hold.  She earned more superior ratings in science fairs, including qualifying as an International Science and Engineering Fair finalist and an Ohio State Department of Food Science and Technology scholarship winner.

Based on Mariah’s initial research in her award-winning Red Raspberries vs. Gold Raspberries comparative study, further research has been approved and funded through the Ohio State University food science lab.

So, as a junior in high school, Mariah has been hired to continue her work through the regulated food science laboratory with graduate advisors and under the guidance of Steven Schwartz, PhD, director and professor, Department of Food and Technology at OSU.

While Mariah is completing her high school education, she is concurrently taking four post-secondary college classes, including chemistry, algebra, English composition and a computer science course.

“At first it made me nervous, realizing I was expected to work on the same level as college students,” she said, “but eventually it just made me want to do more toward my career.  As college students, we get along.  We work together in chemistry lab.  We are in groups in English.  We message each other.  Most people don’t realize that I’m in high school.  It shocks them when they find out.”

Advancing toward medicine

“A good scientist should also have good motivation stemming from care and concern for humanity and the environment,” Mariah said.  “I love helping people.  I’ve gone on a couple of mission trips that gave me the feeling that I was in the right place and doing the right thing.”

Mariah has built houses, installed solar panels, and worked on a fish farm in Haiti.  As a varsity soccer player, she went on a trip to Peru to engage with similar young people through the sport of soccer–soccer broke the language and cultural barrier.

Mariah plans to major in food science in college with an emphasis on pre-med.

“I love working with food science and in the lab doing research,” Mariah said.  “I want to go on from there and add the medical side to it and go out and work with people in this country or another country.  The medical side is more recent; I used to shy away from that.  Then going on these mission trips has changed my mind.  I feel like I can do more to serve others.”

Good things come from hard work

Mariah says that soccer helps keep her life balanced.  “That’s how I work off my frustrations,” she said. “It feels good to go and play on the soccer field.”

And for Mariah, even soccer relates to science.

“We have a saying in soccer,” she said.  “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.  Science has hundreds of opportunities.  The only thing that keeps me from doing more is time and energy itself.  Sure, sometimes it’s hard and I get frustrated.  But if success was easy, it wouldn’t be success.”


VentureNEXT High School Awards are sponsored by TechColumbus with $2500 placed in a 529 College Savings Account on behalf of two students attending school in the 15-county Central Ohio region.

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