We spoke with Emma Ishikawa, Co-Founder of nonprofit organisation RISE about her mission to bridge the gap between science and humanities for future generations.
A senior high school student at St Peter’s School Barcelona, Emma was also a finalist in the 2023 4Voices Competition, of which MumAbroad is one of the founding partners. The second edition of the public speaking competition took place at the CaixaForum in Barcelona with the theme ‘Cultivating Courage’.
RISE is an international nonprofit organisation that seeks to eliminate the gap between humanities and sciences and encourage future scientists to have an interdisciplinary mindset. It stands for “Research and Innovation for Science and Education.”
Our organisation is aimed towards high school and college students across the world. RISE is for students who want to take a step forward in their scientific futures by networking, learning new skills and exposing themselves to opportunities. With 20 nationalities, a diverse range of experts and scientific institutes coming together, we have a community that gives a safe place to wonder, fail and discuss all things science.
I think this project has always been lurking in the back of my mind.
When I was little, my mother went through rounds of treatment for stage four cancer. After that, I was enthused with gratitude for the science behind the things that saved her. But as I went on to do laboratory internships, I noticed that those scientific papers – the ones that go on to save lives – were often like diamonds in the rough. It seemed that there was something missing in the communication and understanding of how to connect science to society. That was the first puzzle piece. The researchers I worked with shared the same frustrations; how to translate research into actual trials and medicine.
Then, this year I observed that my peers were left confused about why they couldn’t use AI for certain school tasks. Why weren’t we being taught more about our futures? I observed how much my peers differed in their opinions around new science topics based on their own individual ethics. How could we really see while just sticking to one side of the story? Those questions were the second puzzle piece. These two pieces came together for me. I no longer wanted to wait for a curriculum, but to make a space for us to connect the whole picture.
We would love to make it as interactive as possible but also have a concrete baseline for knowledge. Our main objective will lie in guest speaker sessions with experts from a range of different areas (engineering, startup creators, scientists…) for students to network and ask their burning questions.
However, each month we will also offer virtual workshops and activities for students to learn transferable skills. Currently, our wonderful collaborators such as 4Voices and MAGMA (promoting research in youth) will allow us to teach students:
We will also promote these skills to be used in practice. Students will have opportunities to find mentorship programmes and access resources to publish research. We also encourage them to take part in our upcoming competitions, such as a debate judged by the “best speaker” winner and second-year medical student in Japan, Natsumi Sadaoka. From having the chance to win prizes, to interacting with peers globally – there is something for everyone!
All of this is amazing, but my favourite part of RISE is that we are not just online—we are in your neighbourhood. We currently have a growing number of schools around the world with their very own “RISE Club” and ambassadors: Nova International Schools in Macedonia (with ambassador Anka Nikolovska), Mater Dei Catholic High School in Chula Vista, California (with ambassador Jacob Reid), St.Peter’s School in Barcelona (with ambassadors including myself, Qian Zhu and Aitian He) and Manquecura CDE in Santiago, Chile (with ambassador Diamela Torres).
They do everything from STEM gender gap workshops with primary-age kids to assemblies with debates about ethics. Students can go from having something they do a few times a month on a computer to seeing real change and impact in their own community. I think that is the power we have as RISE.
My passion comes from knowing that when we bridge science and humanities, we see innovation happen. This is more crucial now than ever. We know that in recent years, issues from climate change to pandemics, artificial intelligence and genetic modification have all come with a statistical decrease of trust in science. But every single upheaval we are about to embark on as society has science as the common denominator for finding solutions.
When I addressed the STEM gender gap by making a prototype robot in a business competition, I saw the two worlds merge. I firmly believe that it is only when we see everyone—their culture, religion, systems of society—that we can decode the key to change.
The RISE team is composed of different departments—RISE outreach, writing, tech, activities and ambassadors. We have students everywhere from the US to Macedonia who work with us.
On the executive board, I am the co-founder and CSO, helping to align our company’s vision with strategy and initiatives. I’m currently a senior in high school looking to study medical sciences in the near future. CEO and co-founder Maria Borrás, who is attending Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, aids in providing students with ample resources and opportunities. Finally, our COO Gina Arnau, a second-year student at Princeton University studying mechanical and aerospace engineering organises and oversees all our activities.
It was one of the most rewarding (yet terrifying) experiences. I submitted my application and didn’t ever think I would be picked. When that day came though, in hindsight I see how my life was completely transformed from there. We had weekly sessions where we would just get to talk. As students, that moment of peace is rare; reflecting, interacting, and inspiring.
Rather than the moments on stage, which was a liberating space to speak your mind, I think we all felt that it was the moments offstage that really counted. I found myself with a new close friend I still speak with regularly, and developed the courage for dozens of accomplishments. I now lead a nonprofit, run two clubs and presented myself well enough to secure two internships at top research institutes. The snowball effect after 4Voices has been outstanding. Even now, the people there continue to be my greatest mentors.
Undeniably important. Today’s world is filled with fake news and millions of social media reels transmitting opinions. I think public speaking skills are really the deal breaker to rise above it all (pun intended). From conference rooms to the classrooms at school, our attention spans are unfortunately getting shorter. One thing that I think social media can’t take away from us is the feeling of being human when we tell a story or hear one. Public speaking is the key to grabbing people’s attention and to making your voice heard and appreciated.
The idea that I can empower someone’s future is my biggest motivation. I relish the opportunity that it is not just one person, but the potential for hundreds that I can help by putting work into this. It gives me a strong sense of confidence when I know that eventually, this community could translate into future scientists who will spearhead innovative changes.
In the future, I see RISE expanding even more than it is now. Further down the line, in a year as I head off to college, I think this will only open more doors to more institutes, more collaborations and more student members. I see RISE spearheading a youth community who can approach the real issues of the world from every aspect; growing into ethical, communicative and interdisciplinary scientists who will lead our world to a sustainable society.
The ultimate goal of the project is to truly connect humans by bridging the gap between humanities and science. I want RISE to erase the barriers and open discussions between young people whose brains are still not hard-wired, and who can be humane individuals. This goal, I hope, will be seen in future leaders, where scientists are seen as the bridges of our societies.
But truly, I always love to receive questions or if any experts want to take an active role, my LinkedIn is open to connect and consult!
4Voices provides an innovative platform for young people to hone their public speaking and social communication skills. 4Voices also offers a range of courses aimed specifically at students and teachers alike that provide in-depth training in the theory and practice of public speaking,
To find out more about 4Voices competitions and courses, contact email@example.com