Sacred Heart of Jesus student wins state science fair

With a deep passion for science, a solid work ethic and a dream, Sacred Heart of Jesus eighth grader Chloe Sebek put everything she had into this year’s state science fair project, “The Effect of Essential Oil on Ascorbic Acid Decay in Citrus Juice.”  

The Boulder student’s hard work definitely paid off. She was named state champion at this year’s fair, competing against the state’s brightest middle and high school students.  

“It has been a dream of mine throughout my middle school career,” Sebek said. “It is definitely a tough award to win, but it just shows that if your heart has a desire that calls to you, and you are brave enough to pursue it, it will lead you on a journey to help us discover our purpose in life.” 

The goal of Chloe’s science fair project was to see if the addition of wild orange essential oil to freshly squeezed orange juice would slow down the decay of ascorbic acid when exposed to various temperatures, allowing vital nutrients to be maintained, providing a natural alternative to the chemical additives being used today.  

Sacred Heart of Jesus eighth grader Chloe Sebek took first prize in this year’s state science fair for her project, ““The Effect of Essential Oil on Ascorbic Acid Decay in Citrus Juice.”  (Photo provided)

“Ascorbic acid, known as Vitamin C, is an essential nutrient for human beings to stay healthy, especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she explained.  “I hypothesized that the addition of essential oil to freshly squeezed orange juice would slow down the rate of oxidation when exposed to various temperatures, reducing ascorbic acid decay.”  

Chloe says the data showed that, on average, wild orange essential oil slowed down ascorbic acid decay in freshly squeezed orange juice by 15% at the three highest temperatures tested.  

Competing for the state title wasn’t new to Sebek. Her passion for science led her to start competing at the school’s local science fair competition in fifth grade. As a sixth grader, she won first place in chemistry in the Boulder Valley Corden Pharma Regional Science Fair and qualified for State, winning third place there. In seventh grade, she received national recognition with the Broadcom MASTERS and her project ended up being in the top 300 in the whole country.  

Now, as an eighth grader, she won best of show at regionals and first at State. She’s hoping to win big at the Broadcam Masters national competition.  

“Over the past four years, I’ve worked to develop skills and strategies for beating the toughest competitors and create projects that can produce change in the world,“ she said. 

As a young scientist, Sebek knows that her career in science is only beginning.  

“In order to create the modern, futuristic world we all dream of, it takes young students with STEM passions today to make that change,” she said. “The minds of young scientists like myself are going to be the ones to solve problems from global warming to cancer. I may be one of the youngest striving to solve science-based issues, but I don’t let my age get in the way of myself working for change and inspiring others.”  

Sebek has a true passion for science and says she wants to pursue a degree in chemistry after high school. (Photo provided)

Her principal, Dave Kline, says he knows Chloe will continue to inspire others. “She is a scientific-minded young lady who has a passion for STEM and is excited to share her knowledge and discovery with anyone who will listen,” he said. 

As for her future, Sebek has big plans. After high school, she will pursue a degree in chemistry at an Ivy League school, but her ambitions don’t stop there.  

“Not only do I want to be a chemist, but I also want to become a scientific inventor and change the world with my own invention,” Sebek said enthusiastically. “When I become famous for my life-changing science discoveries, I would like to continue to inspire others by becoming an author and public speaker. I am actually currently working on publishing my project with the Journal of Emerging Investigators (JEI)!” 

What advice would Sebek give other young people with a passion for science?  

“If I, as a successful young scientist, had any advice for other students with similar aspirations, or any aspiration for that matter, it’s to follow your heart and put in the hard work it takes to pursue that dream,” she said. “Because trust me, we all have an important purpose in this world, and we need everyone!”  

COMING UP: Banned books: Pushing back against the new ideology

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

How would you know if you were being brainwashed? When something plainly false — contrary to common sense and right reason — is so constantly forced on you and you are not allowed to question it, it’s a good indication. This is the nature of ideology: imposing a position without truly establishing it or allowing it to be criticized. We have seen that something clearly opposed to the basics of scientific fact, such as the nature of sex as male and female, can be forced quickly upon American society through the influence of media and public education. And, perhaps not too surprisingly, even something as clear as 2+2=4 has been called into question by progressive educators, such as Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, turning it into a sign of alleged oppression.  

In our time, dystopian novels have become reality. George Orwell best described the use of ideology in modern political regimes through doublethink, newspeak, and thoughtcrime. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character, Winston Smith, is coerced to accept that 2+2=5, showing his allegiance to ideology over reality. Orwell speaks of the way ideology gains power over the mind: “The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.” This domination does not broker any opposition: “It is intolerable . . .  that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be.” If the truth can circulate freely, then ideology will fail.  

You might ask how the acceptance of ideology differs from accepting the mystery of faith, which requires our obedience to God. A key difference is that God’s revelation makes sense even while beyond reason. God does not shut down our thinking but wants us to ask questions and continue to come to know him and his creation throughout our lives. Faith cannot contradict reason because they both come from God, from his gifts of revelation and creation. You know you are facing ideology, however, when it refuses any discussion of contrary views. Catholics have been accused of hate for refusing to go along with the new ideology of human sexuality. This ideology claims to speak truly of the reality of human life, although it doesn’t add up, contradicting itself and the clear facts of science. The fight for the future focuses on speaking the truth. Without the ability to think, discuss, and read freely, it will be hard to respond to the ideological wave overwhelming us. 

Throughout the country, however, great books and humanities programs are being shut down for their emphasis on the Western tradition. Cornell West, an African American philosopher at Harvard, writing with Jeremy Tate, speaks of the spiritual tragedy of one American university closing down its classics department: “Yet today, one of America’s greatest Black institutions, Howard University, is diminishing the light of wisdom and truth that inspired [Frederick] Douglass, [Martin Luther] King and countless other freedom fighters. . . . Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.” For West and Tate, cancelling the Western canon shuts down the central conversation of the pursuit of wisdom that touches every culture.  

Canceling the pursuit of wisdom hits at the integrity of our culture itself, as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, another dystopian novel, focused on saving books from the fire set on wiping them out, explains: “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.” Books proved hostile in this all-too-real futuristic American society portrayed by Bradbury, undermining the state of contended distraction provided by an omnipresent virtual reality. The fight for truth necessarily entails the books we read and teach.  

In our current cancel culture, Catholics too are being silenced for speaking about reality. Amazon recently cancelled Ryan T. Anderson, who studied at Princeton and Notre Dame and now directs the Ethics and Public Policy Center, blocking the sale of its book on its platform for questioning transgender ideology. The book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement (Encounter Books, 2018), provides a well-researched and thought-out response to the movement overturning common sense and millennia of acquired wisdom. Even more than that, Anderson shows how we are experimenting on our children, subjecting them to practices of hormone therapy and surgery that have not been proven safe or effective. Anderson provides evidence of ideology at work, through its coercive attempt to force us to accept what contradicts clear scientific evidence: “At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person — in particular, that people are what they claim to be regardless of contrary evidence” (29).  

Anderson does not deny the need to help those who suffer from gender dysphoria, although the heart of the books focuses on whether or not we are willing to accept reality and to help others to do so. As Anderson explains, “determining reality is the heart of the matter, and here too we find contradictions … Is our gender biologically determined and immutable or self-created and changeable? … At the core of the ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests; they disparage alternative practices; and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down disagreement. The movement has to keep patching and shoring up its beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics and punishing apostates, because as soon as its furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed. That’s what happens when your dogmas are so contrary to obvious, basic, everyday truths” (47-48). Not only philosophers like Anderson, but many educators, doctors, scientists, and politicians have been cancelled for standing up to the blatant falsehoods of this ideology. 

Does 2+2=5? Is a man a man and a woman a woman? No matter the effect of hormones and surgeries, every cell in the body points to the biological reality of sex, along with a myriad of other physical and emotional traits. Shutting down study and debate does not get to the heart of the matter, the truth of reality and the way to help those who suffer. The ideology does not truly focus on tolerance of others or creating reasonable accommodations, as it seeks to impose itself and coerce us. The reinterpretation of Title IX manifests an “Orwellian fiat” by which sex discrimination, meant to protect women, now becomes a means to discriminate against them: “The Women’s Liberation Front highlights the strange transformation of Title IX into a means to deny privacy, safety, education opportunity, and equality to women” (190). Anderson’s book provides an essential overview of the goals of the transgender movement and how to respond to it from a philosophical and scientific perspective. We should not allow the book to be cancelled! 

The goal of this new ideology is not simply to accept and tolerate a particular position, but, as Orwell recognized, to change us. It constitutes an attempt to redefine what it means to be a human being and to change the way we think about reality. Anything standing in the way will be cancelled or even burned. The quick success of this movement, and other ideologies as well, should make us pause. Do we want our children to think freely and wisely or simply to conform to what is imposed on them without question?  

As Catholics, we are called to think in conformity with faith and reason, upholding the truth, even when inconvenient. We are called to continue to form our own minds and accept the reality of how God made us and how he calls us into relationship with him, as the true source of overcoming suffering and difficulty. If you are uninformed and unable to judge rightly and logically, you are more likely to become prey to the new ideology, especially as enforced by government control and big business. We need Catholic freedom fighters, those willing, with charity, to stop the burning of the great ideas and the cancelling of our own faith.  


Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash