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STEM Outreach

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2013
Ritankar Das

At 18, Das is the youngest University Medalist in the University of California, Berkeley’s, history; the annual award includes a $2500 scholarship and is given to the year’s top graduating senior. In his mere three years at Berkeley, Das double-majored in bioengineering and chemical biology with a minor in creative writing.

The University Medal is not his first award. Das has won more than 40 awards totaling more than $300,000, including a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation. An early interest in artificial photosynthesis – which he studied in his kitchen at age 12 – led to research projects at the Energy Biosciences Institute and the US Department of Energy, including new ways to grow nanowires for solar cells and research on OLEDs.

Das formed a campus chapter of the American Chemical Society, according to the school, and founded the Berkeley Chemical Review. He and Marcin Majda, professor and undergraduate dean in the College of Chemistry, are developing a book on education reform with contributions from Fortune 50 CEOs, Nobel laureates, US cabinet secretaries and university presidents.

He’s also the founder and chair of See Your Future, a student-run nonprofit that uses digital learning techniques such as visual demonstrations on YouTube and tutoring via Skype to attract disadvantaged students to careers in STEM fields. The program operates in the Berkeley community currently, but Das would like it to expand nationwide.

Next, Das is off to Oxford University to pursue a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, and after that he will take up study at MIT, where he has already been admitted to the Ph.D. program in chemistry.

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