LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico student is making a big impact on the science world, and she’s only 13. Gianna Nilvo, who attends Los Lunas’ School of Dreams Academy, is heading to Washington D.C. this month for a national competition, and she’s one of only 30 chosen to participate.
Nilvo became a young scientist trying to help her cats with health problems. Now, she’ll join the best of the best for a week of competitions and research and show them what she’s been working on.
“Originally, it started off as my cats at home,” said Nilvo. “They’ve all suffered from digestive problems and this led me to wonder what I can do to help them lead a healthier and happier life.”
Nilvo has shown a passion for animals since a young age. Seeing her cats suffer from digestive problems, the gears started turning as she worked out how to help them.
“I replicated a cat’s digestive system and took these over the counter supplements,” said Nilvo. “I tested them to see how much food was actually digested and if these were worth spending money on.”
What started out as a sixth-grade science fair project grew as Nilvo became more involved in the project. She says getting involved with science fairs and expanding her research opened her eyes to the opportunities.
“I got so interested and involved in this topic. I wanted to learn more and see how it can impact cats around the world,” said Nilvo. “Getting into these competitions made me realize that there’s so much you can do with just one project. It can open up so many doors and has so many opportunities. It really impacted the way I see science fairs now.”
The experience led her to the Broadcom MASTERS STEM competition. While the original sixth-grade project made the top 300, her continued research now has her in the top 30, sending her to D.C. this month.
“This is probably one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. I get to collaborate with other individuals who share an interest in science and get to see all of these amazing projects that people just have such an interest for,” said Nilvo. “It’s really amazing because we get to see all these amazing projects and it just opens our minds to all these possibilities and all these opportunities.”
Her mom, Jennifer, couldn’t be prouder. She hopes other students will get involved with science fairs and research.
“The last two years, she’s been doing science research, and I have seen her grow as a scientist and as a researcher, and becoming passionate about something and realizing this has many opportunities,” said Jennifer Nilvo. “Science research is an amazing thing for all students to do. It’s something we’re already teaching in the classroom, and students should take advantage of that and go out and try to problem solve and be a game-changer. I think that’s really important for them to do.”
Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science and the Public, is also a big fan of Gianna’s work. She says the motivation and creativity to solve real problems is great to see in young students.
“It is thrilling to see the young scientists competing in the Broadcom MASTERS tackle real-world problems they have personal connections to. Gianna’s project is a perfect example,” said Ajmera. “Her research was inspired by her own cats and their health problems. The results from her experiment could benefit fellow cat lovers. I’m so impressed with her creativity and inquisitive nature.”
Gianna plans to continue entering fairs and competitions. As an eighth-grader, she is already taking college courses and hopes to have a bachelor’s degree by the time she graduates from high school. She plans to continue her research and take her passion to the next level: veterinary school, aspiring to someday attend Colorado State University’s program.
“I just love being around animals. I love getting to help them and see what I can do to impact the way they live, how can I change different things to help them live happier so they aren’t suffering from these diseases and these health problems,” said Gianna. “There’s so many things we can do to help animals to change the way that they live and that’s what I’d like to do when I’m older. I’m very passionate about it.”
The Nilvo family will head to Washington D.C. in just over two weeks to take part in Broadcom, where the 30 finalists will take part in team competitions and compete for over $100,000 in awards. Immediately following Broadcom, Gianna and her mom will hop on a flight from D.C. to Indianapolis where she is also a finalist in the National FFA Convention.