The Many Faces of Gifted: Tara

February 26, 2013

By Carole Rosner

Every gifted person has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts depicting the many faces of gifted by highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs. IEA’s Apprenticeship Program – mentioned in this story – links gifted high school students from across the country with mentors who advance each participant’s skills through the application of knowledge and exposure to real world experiences.


Tara Chang
IEA Apprentice at Avery Research Center in 2003
Senior Account Director, Visible Measures

“I would absolutely recommend students to consider the IEA Apprenticeship Program. It is not only a great opportunity to do incredible research, but it is also a great community of students and researchers. IEA was a very exciting summer experience that helped define my direction in college,” explained Tara Chang, 2003 Apprentice.

Tara learned about IEA’s Apprenticeship Program at Avery Research Center in Southern California from her high school science teacher. “I was a high school junior at Marlborough School for Girls and took a course called ‘Honors Research in Science’ led by Dr. Arleen Forsheit. She introduced me to IEA and encouraged me to undertake a science-oriented summer program.”

“As an Apprentice at Avery, I was focused on discovering what molecules were used to create the ‘stickiness’ behind Post-it® notes and how we could make it more or less adhesive. A lot of my day-to-day activities included researching potential theories, posing a thesis, and working to prove the validity of that thesis.” One of the best parts of the program for Tara was that she was also able to meet with other IEA Apprentices, and everyone would share the progress and setbacks on a whole variety of projects daily.

After her Apprenticeship and beginning her senior year in high school, Tara had a fresh understanding of herself. “I felt confident that I was able to directly impact research that could help contribute to new scientific discoveries. It was great to have hands-on experience, which is very different than learning by the book in a typical classroom!”

Tara went on to study at MIT with a major in Management Science. She spent much of her time taking courses and doing research at the renowned MIT Media Lab. Continuing her passion for science and technology after MIT, Tara and her partner placed 3rd in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Academy (DARPA) Red Balloon Network Challenge in 2009. This was a competition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Internet, exploring the roles the Internet and social networking play in the real-time communications, wide-area collaborations, and practical actions required to solve broad-scoped, time-critical problems.

“DARPA posed a question to the general public on how effectively and how quickly social media could actually be used to solve a real time problem. DARPA placed 10 large weather balloons across the entire continental United States and then challenged teams across the world to see who could find the balloons first within a one week period. Our team utilized a mix of tracking Twitter, Facebook, and online updates from local news publications and calling local businesses to help verify the location of the weather balloons. Over 4,000 teams from all over the world entered. An MIT team of post-doctoral and graduate students won in under 9 hours. My team of only 2 came in third, also in under 9 hours.”

Tara currently lives and works in New York City. She is a Senior Account Director at a start-up called Visible Measures. “Visible Measures is an online video distribution firm that helps brands reach the right audiences in the right places with their online video content. I joined the company when they were a young start-up in Boston, MA, and in 2010 I moved out to New York City to help open the New York office. We have rapidly grown over the past two years and now have over 100 employees worldwide and have raised over $60 MM in venture capital to support our mission.”

Tara still keeps in touch with some of the other Apprentices (through social media!) and often sees them when she’s back in Los Angeles. Tara’s future looks bright, and she “appreciates that IEA has helped launch a lifelong journey of discovery and meeting new challenges in science and technology.”

Does Apprenticeship sound like an experience someone you know would like? Applications are currently being accepted for IEA’s high school Apprenticeship Program in Los Angeles!

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