Palmetto High School senior Orko Sarkar spent summers interning at a developmental biology lab working on research. The research looked at a genetic passage way that’s involved in the development of an embryo.
“It has implications in a lot of genetically based diseases,” he says. “We work with sea urchin embryos.
It can be extrapolated.”
Originally Sarkar was working on his own project but eventually switched over to the lab projects.
“More recently I’ve been working with some of the grad students on their projects,” he says. “I started the lab, the summer before eighth grade. That’s because I needed a place to work on my science fair project.”
That project studied the effect of oil on sea urchin embryos.
“We found the oil was deterring their development and, in some cases, killing the embryos,” he says. “It was fairly close after the BP oil spill.
At the time I wanted to be a marine biologist. I wanted to see how the Deep Water Horizon was going to affect the marine life that was in the gulf.”
The project garnered him first place in the state. And his work was so impressive that he stayed and was able to continue to work on research at the lab after his project was completed. Previously, he only worked there during the summer, but now he continues year round.
Interestingly, he’s no longer sure he wants to be a marine biologist. He says he’s expanded his horizons and has taken more classes in different subjects. That made him realize that he might not want to be limited to being a marine biologist because his interests are much broader now.
At Palmetto, Sarkar is president of Mu Alpha Theta, the math club. Because math is one of his favorite subjects, he enjoys taking part in math competitions.
Last year he was on the statistics team. While the team did just okay, he placed individually at the regional math competition and he also placed at the state competition.
“I also qualified for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME) — you have to score at a certain level on an exam,” he says.
He couldn’t go to that competition because it conflicted with a badminton tournament. This year, Sarkar is co-captain of the badminton team.
“I played boys doubles last year and my partner and I were second at GMAC,” he says.
He has been on the team since freshman year.
He is also vice president of the Science National Honor Society. His biggest science competition is Envirothon.
“We have been at nationals two years running and last year we came in second at nationals,” he says.
He’s also competed in the Fairchild Gardens Challenge, the National Science Bowl and the Lexus Eco Challenge. “You have to work on a community service project and we had a cartridge drive,” he says. “We also started a campaign to let people know how much electricity computers waste when they are idle and not turned off.”
His sophomore year, Sarkar competed in the Euro Challenge, an economics competition.
“You have to come up with a solution for a European Union problem,” he says. “You have to formulate a plan to solve their economic problems. We went to nationals for that.”
He has also participated in the History Bowl. Unfortunately, although the team qualified for nationals, he hasn’t been able to participate at that level because the competition clashes with Envirothon.
Sarkar has applied for admission to top 10 schools, as well as the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina, Rice and Georgia Tech.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld