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Mohammed Abuelem – 2017 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge Awards Winner Regional and Arkansas State Science & Engineering Fairs

Mohammed Abuelem, 14, a sophomore at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, AR won the Soybean Science Challenge at the 2017 Central Arkansas Regional Science & Engineering Fair at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock on February 24 and the Southwestern Energy Arkansas State Science and Engineering Fair on April 1 at UCA in Conway.

Abuelem received a $300 cash award at the regional level and a $1,000 award at the state level provided by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. His science project, “The Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Glycine max (soybean) Radicle Length, Stem Length, and Dry Weight Biomass,” also won additional awards at the regional and state levels.

His regional awards were the 2017 Arkansas Junior Academy of Sciences 1st Place Botany-Senior High; 1st Place-Plant Sciences-poster; and the American Meteorological Society Certificate of Outstanding Achievement. Abuelem also received an invitation to the 2017 International Sustainable World Energy Engineering Environment Project Olympiad (iSWEEP) in Houston, TX.

At the state level, Abuelem won the 1st Place-Plant Sciences and 2nd Place-2017 Arkansas Junior Academy of Science State Competition.

Dr. Annice Steadman, Abuelem’s science teacher, also won the Soybean Science Challenge Teacher Mentor Award at the regional and state levels.

“I want to thank the soybean growers of the great state of Arkansas and those affiliated with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and Extension for making the Soybean Challenge an integral part of the regional and state science fairs. I have tried for years to turn student’s attention from animals to plants for research projects. The Soybean Challenge has accomplished this in a short period of time. Pulaski Academy is ecstatic that Mohammed was named the state winner in this competition. I am humbled that I had a small part in helping him achieve this most prestigious award. Soybeans have become Pulaski Academy’s plants of choice for research projects.”

When Mohammed came to Steadman with his science fair proposal, she told him about the Soybean Science Challenge and encouraged him to use soybeans in his experiment.

Steadman said it was an honor to receive the Teacher Mentor Award at both science fairs. “Coming from what was once the “Peach Capitol of the World,” it is good to know that farmers continue to take such pride in their product and are willing to encourage students to become involved in the state’s agrarian roots by educating, mentoring, and rewarding the student’s work.”

Abuelem was delighted to win the Soybean Science Challenge at the regional and state science fair levels. “I am excited to possibly expand on my current study. This award will help open many doors for me in the future.”

The part of the Soybean Science Challenge online course which was most fascinating to Abuelem covered the statistics about soybeans and their prominence around the world. The composition of soybeans and the practical applications of soybean farming, along with the harmful diseases that soybeans could develop were also extremely useful to him.

Before taking the Soybean Science Challenge online course, Abuelem did not know much about soybeans. “This is particularly why I was so amazed at how prominent soybeans are and how important they are around the world,” he said.

Through his participation in The Challenge, Mohammed learned of the history and domestication of soybeans by Chinese farmers around 1100 BC and that soybeans entered the United States around 1765, along with many other pertinent facts about soybeans according to Steadman.

Steadman also knew very little about the production of soybeans in Arkansas or the many products derived from soybeans. “I knew that children diagnosed with a milk allergy were given soy milk.” Steadman is now a strong supporter of the soybean growers in the state. “The possibilities for these little beans are only restricted by one’s lack of curiosity.”

Tarek Abuelem and Shireen Khalaf, Mohammed’s parents, were glad to see his hard work on the project rewarded twice. They were happy that his efforts paid off and that all the time he spent working on the project was fruitful. “We have big faith in Mohammed’s abilities and dedication to projects generally and science specifically. We are looking forward to his preparation for the next project as he takes it to the next level.”

From early childhood Mohammed was attracted to kids’ shows that had to do with science. “He always had questions and was looking for detailed answers. During his middle school years, he started to connect math with the science around him and his passion grew stronger,” his parents continued. “As he prepared for this project, he was very observant and precise. Data analysis just took his enthusiasm to a higher level.”

Mohammed enjoys all fields of math and science and likes hands-on activities and experimental results. Applied science attracts him the most. Scientific projects that involve statistics are particularly engaging for him.

He plans to conduct future studies based on his current research and examine how ionizing radiation doses exceeding 50 Gy affect later stages of soybean plant growth, including the later V and R stages.

“The Soybean Science Challenge allows Arkansas senior-high students to participate in scientific discovery that can make a difference to our state and the world. Soybean farmers help feed the world, and Soybean Science Challenge students not only learn about this important commodity crop, they also develop an understanding of the challenges and complexity of modern farming,” said Dr. Karen Ballard, Extension developer and director of the program.

“The goal of the Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge is to engage students in “real world” education to support soybean production and agricultural sustainability,” said Gary Sitzer, chairman of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. “The program also rewards scientific inquiry and discovery that supports the Arkansas soybean industry.”

The Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge was launched in January 2014 to provide educational outreach, mentoring and research recognition for 9-12 grade science students. Students who successfully completed the online course were eligible to have their original soybean-related research projects judged at the 2017 ISEF affiliated Arkansas science and engineering fairs.

Information on the 2017-18 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge will be available in summer 2017. For more information, contact Dr. Karen Ballard at

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Mohammed Abuelem: Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, AR – Teacher, Dr. Annice Steadman

Category: Plant Sciences

Project Title: The Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Glycine max (Soybean) Radicle Length, Stem Length, and Dry Weight Biomass


Many plants are exposed to high amounts of ionizing radiation due to the depletion of the ozone layer. Glycine max (soybean) plants in particular have prominent industries around the world. This study investigates the effects of ionizing radiation on Glycine max radicle length, stem length, and dry weight biomass in early stages of soybean growth. It was hypothesized that if Glycine max seeds are exposed to higher doses of ionizing radiation, then the mean radicle length after five days, the mean stem length after 20 days, and the mean dry weight biomass after 24 days will all be less. 180 soybean seeds were obtained and divided into three trial groups (60 seeds each) and subsequently into four study subgroups (15 seeds each) based on a radiation dose of 0 Gy, 0.5 Gy, 5 Gy, or 50 Gy. In each trial, 40 seeds were observed over five days to measure their radicle lengths and 20 seeds were observed over 20 days to measure their stem lengths. The latter were then removed from the soil to dry for four days before their dry weight biomasses were measured. The data fail to reject all three null hypotheses; there was no statistically significant difference among radicle lengths, stem lengths, and dry weight biomasses of Glycine max plants whose seeds were exposed to ionizing radiation and those not exposed to ionizing radiation. These results suggest that ionizing radiation at doses of 50 Gy or less does not affect early stages of soybean growth.

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