Humans of Harker: Amrita Singh develops her passions for research and theater


Katherine Zhang

“I am confused on what you can judge research on because to me, all research is important. How can you say that one person’s research is more valid than another’s? To me, that’s like saying that one person is more valid than another, or that biology is more valuable than physics,” Amrita Singh (12) said.

by Katherine Zhang, Asst. STEM Editor

Sixth graders aren’t normally supposed to participate in the Synopsys Science Fair, but that didn’t faze Amrita Singh (12). Undeterred by being told that she was too young, she decided to do a project in a lab outside of school, where a mentor steered her on the rather unconventional path of researching crickets. For three years, Amrita immersed herself in studying.

“I spent three years studying crickets, and that’s not particularly normal when other people are doing osmosis or organic food in middle school,” Amrita said. “But I loved it. Overall, it was a great experience because I learned how to work when surrounded by different people.”

Amrita continued to enter her work in science competitions throughout middle school. However, working with professors during a marine biology course at the University of California at San Diego changed her view on science competitions and inspired her to only do research on the topics that she was truly passionate about.

“I ended up reading a lot of research articles [during the course], and I just had this epiphany that people do research not for competitions or for money, but because they’re interested or they care about something,” Amrita said. “As I got older and I had more experiences where I met professors at colleges who were doing things because they loved it, I started believing that I could approach my projects with that same mentality. I thought, let’s just try something new, and I’ll do whatever I want.”

The following year, Amrita conducted a research project about the breakage of snail shells as part of Harker’s annual Costa Rica trip and decided to enter it in the Synopsys Science Fair once more to see if her new perspective on research would help her better understand the motivation behind science competitions.

“I found that I disagreed with Synopsys in that they judge the projects,” Amrita said. “I am confused on what you can judge research on because to me, all research is important. How can you say that one person’s research is more valid than another’s? To me, that’s like saying that one person is more valid than another, or that biology is more valuable than physics. And that’s where I decided that science competitions are not for me, and that I was only going to do self-motivated research and have fun with it.”

Amrita went on to take courses on research throughout high school, including the Advanced Research class offered at the upper school. One course in particular allowed her to combine her interest in science with another long-standing passion – theater.

“The summer before my junior year, I took this course at Stanford, and my teacher had this saying: ‘Engineering is art,'” Amrita said. “That really resonated with me because I’d like to see myself as an artist. As someone who is interested in theater, I think that art is meant to express or mimic life and make a statement about it. And thinking about that phrase, ‘Engineering is art,’ the medium for engineering can be computer code or wood or whatever you’re using to create the product, and I think that’s really special.”

Just as with science, Amrita’s passion for theater and the performing arts began at an early age. Since beginning piano lessons at the age of five, Amrita has sung in several choirs and performed in a multitude of roles in Harker’s plays.  

“When I was little, I tried sports, and I hated it,” Amrita said. “So then I really started performing when I began taking piano lessons. In third grade, I began voice lessons. In fourth grade, I performed in the Bucknall Choir, and I had a role in the fifth grade show, which was really exciting to me. I’ve met some of my best friends through performing, and that was also amazing.”

In addition to helping her establish connections with her classmates, theater has also helped Amrita to learn how to deal with challenges in her life.

“In sixth grade, I auditioned for my first and only out-of-school production,” Amrita said. “It was for the Sound of Music, and I made it to callbacks, but I didn’t make it past that, which was kind of heartbreaking for me. I was really upset at the time, but I realized that life just goes on no matter what happens, so I just had to learn how to deal with that.”

Above all, Amrita values theater because she feels that it is the form of art that most closely mimics real life.

“Something that I find so special about theater is that life is presented in the medium it’s created in,” Amrita said. “If you’re a painter, your medium is acrylics, and you try to express life through your acrylic work, whereas onstage, it feels closer to life than any other form of that, and I find that really special.”