WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama praised a group of student science fair winners from around the country — including Shree Bose, a senior at Fort Worth Country Day School — in a boost to science education Tuesday at the second annual White House Science Fair.
"The young people I met today, the young people behind me -- you guys inspire me," Obama said to the 100 students and administration officials in the ornate East Room, with some sitting on risers behind him.
"It's young people like you that make me so confident that America's best days are still to come. When you work and study and excel at what you're doing in math and science, when you compete in something like this, you're not just trying to win a prize today. You're getting America in shape to win the future."
The White House took on the air of a high school gym. Exhibits from 30 teams and individuals, including Bose's groundbreaking cancer research project and a rocketry team from Presidio, were spread out on the first floor and ground level of the White House.
Obama toured some of the exhibits in the morning -- with the students standing in front of their displays -- before the event in the East Room.
"I just spent some time checking out some of the projects that were brought here today, and I've got to say, this is fun," Obama said. "It's not every day that you have robots running all over your house."
Bose, 17, said afterward that the experience was "amazing." She seemed especially pleased that she sat in the front row next to Bill Nye the Science Guy, the longtime PBS show's host. "I grew up with him," she said. "It was so cool."
Not that shaking hands with the president wasn't cool, too.
Bose met Obama in the Oval Office last year when she was a grand-prize winner in the Google Science Fair.
"It was such a huge honor to be back at the White House," she said after the East Room event.
A passer-by stopped to talk to Bose -- it was Dr. Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute, who wanted to be sure the teen posted on the institute's "provocative questions" page.
Bose's research into ovarian cancer has drawn attention because she identified a protein in the cell that might be responsible for the resistance to chemotherapy drugs over time. Results have shown that giving patients inhibitors for that protein, she said, creates new responsiveness to treatment. She did her research at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.
Bose gave kudos to her school, saying that while she submits her own projects for competitions, she has had "great science teachers at Country Day."
"I'm really blessed to have such a great school," she said.
Bose has been accepted at Harvard University and hopes to continue doing research.
Also among the exhibitors were three young women from the Rio Grande Valley. They got a shoutout from the president as students who speak English as a second language, and they showed him the rockets they developed for NASA competitions.
"I feel so proud, so excited," said Janet Nieto, 20, who was on the team last year and now attends Texas Tech.
Her sister, Ana Nieto, 17, is on the team as well and will again attend the Upward Bound Math and Science summer program at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Ana Nieto said meeting the president was "wonderful, amazing."