SERP Interview with Olga Pinkhasov

SERP, the Science and Engineering Research Program in our school, is known for stellar research projects self conducted by ambitious students who are ready to conduct college level laboratory work during their high school years. Olga Pinkhasov, a senior involved in SERP for the past four years, shared her experience with the program in a brief interview below.

What originally sparked your interest in joining SERP?

“As an overwhelmed freshman, getting an email about a science and engineering research program wasn’t the most appealing thing to me at the time. However, as soon as I went to the interest meeting and heard fellow students talk about what research meant to them, the passion in their voice is what really drew me to the program. Everyone there seemed to want to be there, a quality so unique to me at the time. As a child I always loved science, but didn’t know what to do with my passion; this program seemed like it could open the doors for me to discover my future career path, and that’s exactly why I joined.”

Describe your experience in SERP. What did you learn from the program? 

“SERP has been the biggest roller coaster of my high school career. As a class, it’s very unusual and demanding. It teaches time management and self determination. There have been times where I was so overwhelmed with school and research I was on the brink of dropping the program all together, but pushing through it taught me never to give up. There’s nothing more rewarding than my SERP experience.”

How has it helped you?

“I think the greatest benefit of being involved in SERP for me was discovering my future career path. Ultimately, SERP helped me expand my skills across the board: I became more comfortable with public speaking, a better writer, a more critical thinker, etc. However, I could’ve honed all of those skills in various places. The one thing SERP gave me that nothing else could is the discovery of my passion in the study of molecular evolutionary biology, a passion that molded me into the person I am today, and one that I will continue to carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Briefly describe your current research project in SERP. 

“After four years in the program, this is my third research project that I am involved with. I currently work at a herpetology lab in the American Museum of Natural History, where we conduct the phytogeographic analysis of snakes endemic to Madagascar. In short we sequence the DNA of snake samples collected from the island and analyze it to see if the species has evolved enough for speciation to occur. Our long term goal is to scientifically prove the need for greater preservation efforts to exist on Madagascar because there are multiple species of snakes wrongly classified as one species that are endangered or close to extinction.”

What advice would you give to underclass men who are considering joining?

“The biggest advice I can give to freshman considering joining SERP is to not give up on it. It will be very difficult and for most people it could mean a very first failing grade. Nevertheless, the work and struggle you put into it will make the success and happiness you get from your work all the more rewarding. Freshman year SERP is the toughest, but senior year when you’re standing in front of a committee of qualified scientists presenting work you contributed to, or when you google your name and find a research paper you were given authorship to, you realize that there’s no program that can do what SERP does for every student that joins. In short- my advice is to join, find your passion, and stick to it! Good luck!”

By Sierra Triolo

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