By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- A star student from Indian River County was one of six students chosen to speak at the opening ceremonies of the state science and engineering fair.
Vero Beach High School senior Unnati Jain was one of seven students named as a 2013 Junior and Senior Outstanding Narratives Colloquium speakers that spoke earlier this week at the 58th annual state science and engineering fair in Lakeland.
Being chosen for the JASON colloquium is an honor, and provides students an opportunity to stimulate the audience toward positive goals, a press release said.
More than 50 students applied to speak and each of them selected a topic and prepared an outline for consideration, Ms. Jain said.
"I decided I was going to speak about Starbursts, the candy," she said.
Now, what do Starbursts have to do with science, engineering, or academic pursuits in general? That is a good question, Ms. Jain said.
Part of the conundrum of the popular fruity candy is that it's a contradiction; it's solid, yet juicy like a liquid candy, she said.
"The topic I chose was: live life like a Starburst, be a contradiction. For example, I am at the state science fair, yet I have also been a cheerleader, played soccer and been on the math team," Ms. Jain said.
Exposing yourself to many pursuits broadens you as a person and gives many opportunities for growth, she said.
"When I was applying for colleges, writing essays was easy because I had all these experiences to choose from to write about," she said.
Ms. Jain has attended the state science and engineering fairs in the past, and has always enjoyed listening to the JASON speakers, imagining what it would be like if she could speak to inspire like they did.
"This is surreal for me, it is such an honor," Ms. Jain said.
She thanked her teacher, Heather Holden, and Education Foundation executive director Cynthia Falardeau for their help in the application process and their personal letters of nomination and recommendation.
Ms. Jain received her bid to participate in the state science and engineering fair through her participation and excellence in the Education Foundation of Indian River County's regional science and engineering fair.
Her biochemistry project involved identifying the mutation in genes associated with Alzheimer's disease and calculating the probability of individuals developing the disease or of infants being predisposed to the disease.
Her project also qualified her to participate in the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix in May and she will also be speaking as the valedictorian during her graduation in June.
Though she has not yet chosen a university, Ms. Jain said she is interested in pursuing a degree in pre-med, although she is torn between becoming a practitioner or a researcher.