By Seth Daniel
‘Nova’ was a good teacher for Everett High junior Obed Posada when he arrived at an early age from El Salvador.
When the 17-year-old young man came to the Everett at the age of six to join his father – who had lived in the United States for many years – he didn’t immediately have a great grasp of the language. However, he said that watching PBS shows such as ‘Nova’ helped him to quickly pick up the language and also develop a love of science.
“I didn’t speak very good English so it was difficult at first,” he said. “I had to watch a lot of television and ask my dad a lot of questions about what certain words meant. I watched all sorts of programs on PBS. I would especially watch science programs on ‘Nova.’ I think that’s what first made me have an interest in research. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but it made me aspire to do something like what they were doing in the laboratories.”
Now, 11 years later, the EHS student is a perennial Science Fair winner and has worked closely with scientists at MIT’s Voigt Laboratories in Cambridge – having his future in science and medicine mapped out like a well-planned trip.
“I feel like it’s something that interests me because I feel like I can do something to help the world with science,” he continued. “I enjoy math, but I don’t think I can make the same kind of difference.”
Just this past week, Posada took first in the Biology category at Everett High’s Science Fair and second overall – just being nudged out of the top spot by less than one point.
Last year, he took first overall in the EHS Science Fair and third place at the State Science Fair.
Even as a freshman, Posada surged to the top of the EHS Fair, placing second overall.
Posada started school at the Keverian and moved over to the Parlin School – where in the sixth grade, he entered his first Science Fair. At the time, Posada had been reading a great deal about the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He said he was driven to find out what materials would help to absorb oil the best – having seen birds and wildlife that were suffering in the oil spill.
From there, he used that interest in helping through science to create a project his freshman year that looked at how DNA reacts to temperature, which brought him a second place finish.
That second place finish, however, would propel him to become the understudy to prestigious researchers at MIT’s Voigt Labs. His second place finish allowed him to advance to the Regional Fair, where he met Dr. Felix Moser of MIT – who was a judge.
Moser was handing out his card to students that impressed him, and as fate would have it, no one except Posada contacted him. It’s something Posada said he believes is just as important as science, that being taking advantage of opportunities when they arise.
“I feel like in life you only get a certain amount of opportunities,” he said. “It’s up to you to take advantage of them. If I hadn’t called Dr. Moser, I would have never worked at MIT or done this level of research or even gotten third place at the State Science Fair. The only thing I can tell younger kids is to make sure to take advantage of an opportunity when it comes along. You can end up learning from an innovator and being able to go to the next level…The funny thing for me is Dr. Moser said he gave out many, many cards that day, but I was the only one who took the opportunity to call him.”
After Posada contacted Moser, the two connected and Posada took a tour and ended up working in a program at MIT. He spends most Saturdays or Sundays there working with Dr. Moser and others in the lab. It has given him an extraordinary opportunity to take his learning at EHS much further.
“When you’re in an environment surrounded by EHS kids, you’re challenged, but it’s not like being surrounded by doctors and innovators and you’re the only high school student,” he said. “You can see how much more you don’t know and how much room there is for you to improve. At the state science fair, you’re in the same situation because you’re surrounded by kids who want to cure cancer or put an end to diabetes.”
Now, he is working with biofilms and hoping to break through with tissue engineering so that bacteria in hospitals does not develop a film that complicates treatment.
Such experiments have led him to set a goal to be an oncologist eventually, hoping to write books and do research to look for new cancer treatments.
Before that, though, he hopes to be accepted to the International Science Fair and to a great university. Right now, he’s looking at Harvard, Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Brown and Boston College.
No matter where he ends up, though, he said he has a pretty good roadmap for where he wants to go with his life.
“I think it’s great that I have very specific goals,” he said. “It’s very difficult for kids now and it’s a struggle for kids to know what they want to do. They enjoy a lot of things, but don’t know exactly what they want to do.”
For Posada, there is no complicated math in figuring out his passion – that being science.
The EHS junior is the son of Obed Posada Sr. and Melida Posada. He has a sister, Bertha Posada, who is in middle school.