Sarah Barnett’s Singapore Adventure

When Staples High School students plan summer internships, they often gravitate toward their interests: Fashion. Journalism. Sports.

Sarah Barnett is no different. But although the senior serves as dance captain for Staples Players and  dances with the Performing Arts Center of Connecticut, last summer she focused on another passion.

Sarah worked at Gastroenterology Associates of Fairfield County.

Where, as an unpaid intern, she researched different types of preparations for colonoscopies.

Sarah Barnett, hard at work.

Sarah Barnett, hard at work.

That idea did not come out of the blue. Sarah — who is interested in a caerer in medicine — has taken Staples’ high-level Authentic Science Research course since sophomore year.

Last year she designed an independent project with teachers Karen Thompson and Philip Abraham. The aim was to discover the best colonoscopy prep method. As she amassed information, she realized that every doctor’s report was subjective. Her data was skewed by each physician’s personality.

That work — and her summer internship — helped her find a scale that produced much better data.

Which is how last month — while most of her friends took mid-terms at Staples — Sarah found herself in Singapore.

There, she presented her information in a research paper competition, as part of the very prestigious International Youth Science Forum.

Sarah Barnett presenting her research to a judge at the International

Sarah Barnett presenting her research to a judge at the International Youth Science Forum in Singapore.

She traveled to the Hwa Chong Institution with her teacher Ms. Thompson, and Staples junior Charlie Colasurdo. He took part in a science master classes with — among others — 4 Nobel laureates.

Sarah’s event was not for the faint-hearted. She presented to 2 highly qualified judges, then answered questions.

Of 30 participants, Sarah was selected as one of only 5 semifinalists. That entailed another round of presentations and questions.

She did not advance to the finals. But that did not quench Sarah’s enthusiasm for colonoscopy prep — or research in general.

“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “It made me so excited for a future in science. I love finding new, unexpected thing to study.”

Noting “it was so inspiring to be around bright, passionate students,” she also appreciated the cultural aspect of the International Forum. There were presentations on countries around the world. Sarah made friends with students form Brunei and Estonia — places, she admits, she’d barely heard of.

Sarah Barnett's Singapore experience exposed her to students from around the globe.

Sarah Barnett (center). Her Singapore experience exposed her to students from around the globe.

Back in Westport, she’s preparing for the Connecticut Science Fair. While it sounds small potatoes compared to Singapore, it’s the first step to qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Her goals are twofold: win a scholarship, and get important feedback from judges.

Sarah is also making plans to study colonoscopy prep from the patients’ side. She’ll look at factors like cost and comfort — while of course making sure her data is as objective as possible.

This summer, she hopes for an internship at Yale in neurophysiology in cell biology. Sarah admits, “I don’t know anything about it, but I love neuroscience.”

She’s also applying to Earthplace, for a research project in water cleanliness. That’s another of Sarah Barnett’s passions.

Kids these days!

5 responses to “Sarah Barnett’s Singapore Adventure

  1. Congrats to Sarah! Another exceptional Westport ambassador. But the best may be yet to come, if she gets to spend the summer with Harbor Watch( the best Water Watchdogs in CT), led by another exceptional “Sarah”, Dr. Sarah Crosby.!

  2. Fantastic story on just one slice of your life Sarah. You never cease to amaze; keep up the amazing work!!

  3. So impressive, Sarah! Congrats!

  4. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at last Saturday’s Connecticut STEM Fair at Darien High School where she presented her research. A most impressive set of skills.

  5. Rachel Barnett

    Thank you, Dan, great article on Sarah!

    My mom and I have been big fans of “06880” since we moved to Westport 3 years ago and we always enjoy/appreciate your comments!

    Warm regards, Rachel Barnett (Sarah Barnett’s mom)