Sarthak Sinha has spent the past three years labouring over neurobiology and stem cell research, penning research papers and spending late nights in the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute — and he doesn’t even have his driver’s licence yet.
This 17-year-old prodigy emigrated from Allahabad, India, five years ago, finding himself with a wealth of opportunity. “My family came to Canada with an aptitude for seeing challenges as a positive venue to venture out,” he says. “I had no other option but to succeed.”
Armed with the wild curiosity and optimism of youth, when Sinha was 14, he sent out e-mails and called researchers throughout the city, asking to work in their research labs. Months later, he was offered a spot in Dr. Jeff Biernaskie’s lab, in the faculty of veterinary medicine at the U of C as a student researcher.
Thrown headfirst into the world of neurobiology, Sinha quickly grabbed the attention of Biernaskie and was granted more responsibility. Soon, he was given his own projects to work on. Sinha has made the most of the opportunity and now he’s beginning to perform experiments independently in the lab and applies for and presents at science fairs and conferences.
“I could tell that he was very smart, well-read in science — and very, very curious. Those are all the ingredients that make a good scientist,” says Biernaskie, describing his early impressions of Sinha. “He has a ferocious appetite for science and I wanted to try and nurture that so he stays in the field of scientific research.”
When he was only 15, Sinha took an undergraduate biology course at the University of Pennsylvania. He presented a paper on glial cell biology and peripheral nerve regeneration research that he and a grad student had collaborated on and that was chosen by the American Academy of Neurology for the Neuroscience Research prize of 2013. And he also helped write other collaborative research abstracts out of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.
Searching to understand the regenerative nature of stem cells, Sinha and his fellow researchers work to find treatments for burns and scars and are even attempting to use stem cells as a therapeutic agent for demyelinating injuries or diseases such as multiple sclerosis. “Multiple sclerosis therapy research is one of the fastest-growing fields,” says Sinha. “Being a part of that, making a difference in someone’s life, it just feels enormous.”
3 Things About Sarthak Sinha
- Sarthak Sinha represented Team Canada ISEF 2012 and 2013 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, winning third place against competitors from 65 countries.
- As an ambassador for the MS Society of Canada, he volunteers every week with an MS patient and has been volunteering with the same patient for two years.
- He was a speaker at TEDxEdmonton, where he spoke about the future of education.