Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kids These Days: Indrani Das

I’ll be the first to admit that science has never really been my thing. Sure, some topics of interest stuck in my brain (hello, grade 9 unit on the reproductive system!), but there’s no guarantee they’ll stay there. I mean, I picked up enough in science classes to know that the body is this complex thing, and that the more complex things are, the more possibilities there are for failure.

Especially with something like the brain, which is kind of the master of the whole shebang. If it fails – due to traumatic injury or something like dementia – its host is in trouble.

But not if Indrani Das has anything to do with it.

Indrani has been studying what’s actually going on in the brain when brain damage occurs in an attempt to discover how the process can be slowed, or even reversed. And the fact that she recently won the top prize of $250,000 in the Regeneron Science Talent Search suggests that she’s doing a heck of a job.

Because the Regeneron Science Talent Search? Yeah, it’s sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize for teens.

Yes, teens.

Seventeen-year-old Indrani has been studying how to improve the lives of people with brain injuries or degenerative brain diseases since she was fourteen. So, at the same age that I was giggling over the similarity between the words orgasm and organism, she was studying the human brain.

And she kept at it for three years, increasing her knowledge, developing her findings, ending up as one of 40 finalists from 1700 applicants to this prestigious science fair. And, after enduring rigorous questioning that forced her to defend her findings, she emerged victorious.

Which, in itself, is pretty darn impressive. I mean, she won $250,000! For studying parts of the human brain that I can't even pronounce! But this research is only one way that Indrani spends her time.

She wants to be a doctor one day, but waiting until after college to start helping people is clearly not her style. She’s already a certified EMT working with the ambulance service in her home state of New Jersey.

And she tutors math.

And plays the trumpet in a jazz ensemble.

All while making discoveries about the human brain that could potentially help thousands to maintain or improve their quality of life.

So, my teenage self will just be in the corner, laughing over funny words and feeling safe  confident in the knowledge that Indrani is out there, and that she's much better at science than I could ever hope to be.

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