WASHINGTON DC – A Sparta High School junior had the experience of a lifetime when she was invited to the White House as a Kid-Science Advisor. Alex Poret was one of 11 students selected from the more than 2,500 applicants who traveled to Washington, DC on Friday, October 21.
A self-starter, Poret found the competition on a web blog from the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Her paper about the microbiome, bacteria in the human gut, got the attention of the screeners.
The 16-year-old flew to Washington, DC for the meeting with her mother Nete Poret. The parents were held at the Eisenhower Executive Building while the Kid Science Advisors were taken to the White House. Originally the Kid Science Advisors were not told the president would be meeting with them.
““It was a surreal experience,” Alex Poret said. “It was already a lot to take in being in the Roosevelt room and then suddenly the president walks in. Everyone, including myself, was totally star struck. By the end of the experience, my mouth was hurting from smiling so much.”
This summer Alex Poret was chosen to take part in the competitive Liberty Science Center’s Partners in Science program where only one in four applicants are selected. She was paired with Associate Professor Andrew Gow and Professor Vinod from the Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. Their project was to work on using a biomarker in blood to assess lung function in premature infants.
Alex Poret is not just a budding scientist. She plays viola in the Chamber Club at Sparta High School and with the New Sussex Symphony. She also takes photographs for OSCAR, One Step Closer Animal Rescue.
As a member of the Sparta High School Robotics team she went to the state competition, where they won two awards. She was also a co-winner of the Student of the Year in consumer science for her participation on the team.
When asked who has influenced her interest in science Alex Poret points to two teachers: Sparta High School biology teacher Ken Scognamiglio and Robotics teacher Mark Meola. According to her mother, she has also been “influenced greatly by a friend’s younger brother’s childhood cancer diagnosis as well as her cousin who has cystic fibrosis.”
The talented young lady is not yet certain where she would like to go to college but is discussing several schools with good biomedical engineering programs with her family, according to Nete Poret. Alex is still deciding where she wants to focus her attention; working on the biological mechanisms of the microbiota, childhood cancer or cystic fibrosis.
The idea for having Kid Science Advisors came from 9-year-old White House Science Fair presenter Jacob Leggett, according to White House publication. Leggett reportedly asked President Obama if he had a Kid Science Advisor. “The President loved the idea and suggested that his science advisor Dr. John Holdren” reach out to students to find their interests in science, technology and innovation.
Weeks later the White House launched the Kids Science Advisor campaign.
Alex Poret said, “By the way the oval office is way bigger than everyone thinks. Just saying.”