The Culmination of Curiosity

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BASIS.ed is proud of each and every one of our students in all eighteen of our schools across the country. And while we often speak of them collectively – even abstractly – we know that each of them has her or his own story.

So today I want to focus on one of our students, just one, who is a wonderful example to each of our students, and to each of us, as educators. Anvita Gupta is a 12th grade student at BASIS Scottsdale. She’s quite into science, but is also the definition of well-rounded. She’s just a good kid, a happy all around student, who has taken to heart our consistent encouragement to students to find what they like and focus on it: to ask questions, seek answers, and be curious. (In fact, we hear Anvita already had that curious outlook when she arrived at BASIS Scottsdale!)

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Anvita once described herself as a future scientist – but no more. She’s a scientist now. She is thorough and reasoned and measured in her questions, research, and answer-seeking – so much so that she just won the Third Place Medal of Distinction for Global Good at the Intel Science Talent Search at the White House. Anvita was one of forty national finalists competing for $1 million in awards in the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science and math competition. Each of the forty finalists had won a local or regional science fair; Anvita finished third among them.

Anvita, who is 17-years-old, was recognized for making it easier for computers to help develop disease-curing drugs. She essentially used machine learning algorithms to “teach” a computer to identify potential drugs for cancer, tuberculosis and Ebola. She developed a method to rank possible leads for certain molecular targets, chosen for diseases with intrinsically disordered proteins, which make up 70% of all cancer proteins and are implicated in Alzheimer’s, tuberculosis and Ebola.

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Let me be clear — her research is real research – not theoretical. (It’s entitled ‘A Novel Method of Targeting Intrinsically Disordered Proteins for Drug Discovery: Application to Cancer and Tuberculosis’.) And it was so successful that pre-clinical trials are already underway in China on some tuberculosis drugs that she identified.

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In addition to being recognized as one of the nation’s top science students, Anvita was awarded $35,000. She joins the ranks of other notable Science Talent Search alumni, who over the past 74 years have gone on to win eight Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, five National Medals of Science, 12 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and even an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Anvita’s findings expressly caught the eye of President Obama, who toured the competition and delivered remarks afterwards. In fact, soon after she presented her research to the President of the United States, he specifically recognized her research during his speech. (If you want to read President Barack Obama’s full speech at the Intel Science Talent Search, including Anvita’s mention, click here.)

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You should also know that Anvita is the founder and director of LITAS For Girls – an organization that aims to inspire middle school girls to learn to love computer science, and eventually pursue computer science careers. Anvita has loads to say about the gender gap in STEM learning and STEM-based careers. No surprise, then, that just as she’s a scientist right now, rather than a “future scientist” (not that there’s anything wrong with that)… she’s also not just a proponent of bridging that STEM gender gap. She’s actually helping build the bridge. (You can see more about this subject at www.litas4girls.org.)

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You can also check out a fun Q & A article featuring Anvita here; and a great news story covering Anvita’s success here.

Anyway, we though Anvita was someone you should know. She represents the culmination, the ultimate result of what we strive to do as educators. No, not every student can finish third in the nation and meet the President inside the White House – we know that. But what every student can do is to be curious, to find joy in learning, in asking, in answering. That’s how we roll – and that’s what Anvita did, and we are so very proud of her. Anvita’s teachers and classmates are, too.

We wish you a hearty congratulations, and a lifetime of continued curiosity, Anvita – as well as academic and scientific fulfillment, and joy in whatever you decide to pursue.

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Should you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at BASISedBlog@basised.com.