Indian American Whiz Kids recognized for their accomplishments


The Davidson Institute of Talent Development announced Aug. 11 its 2016 winners of the Davidson Fellows program and at least seven are Indian American or South Asian American.    The scholarship program offers $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 scholarships to students 18 or younger who have completed significant projects that have the potential to benefit society in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature and music.

Meena Jagadeesan and Sriharshita Musunuri were named among the four Davidson Fellows Laureates, which netted them each a $50,000 scholarship.Eight students were winners of a $25,000 scholarship, including Anurudh Ganesan, Raghav Ganesh and Maya Varma.   Another eight were honored with $10,000 scholarships, among them Surabhi Mundada and Kavita Selva.  “We are thrilled to recognize the 2016 Davidson Fellows not only for their incredible projects, but also for the journey they forged to reach this point,” said Bob Davidson, founder of the Davidson Institute. “Every year I am amazed by the depth of the Fellows’ accomplishments. Through encouragement and recognition, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development anticipates that gifted students like these will be among the pioneers who will solve the world’s most vexing problems.”

Jagadeesan, 18, of Naperville, Ill., was chosen as a fellow in the mathematics category for her project, “The Exchange Graphs of Weakly Separated Collections.”  Her project is at the intersection of algebra and combinatorics. From her research, she has proven an isomorphism between classes of these graphs, fully characterized these graphs in small cases, and also characterized these graphs in other special cases, according to a Davidson Institute news release.  The Indian American is heading to Harvard University in the fall, planning to major in mathematics or a related subject. Her brother Ravi was a Davidson Fellow Laureate in 2014. She hopes to pursue a career in some quantitative field. Currently, she’s interested in math as well as its applications to other areas, especially biology. She is a Siemens semifinalist for a project in mathematical biology and a four-time medalist at the Math Prize for Girls Invitational Olympiad.  Munsunuri, 16, of Mill Creek, Wash., earned her scholarship in the science category for her project, “Application of Tetrahedrite and Magnesium Silicide in a Novel Thermoelectric Unicouple to Generate Electricity from Industrial Waste Heat.”  “Though I have been awarded at numerous science fairs and presented to both professional and technical audiences, becoming a Davidson Fellow Laureate represents acceptance to the larger scientific community, and allows me to communicate my research and its applications on a larger platform,” said Musunuri in a statement. “This scholarship not only enhances my opportunity to pursue a higher education, it also validates the fact that the world is ready to encourage people on the basis of the merit of their efforts, regardless of their age or seniority.”  Musunuri’s project was a synthesis of the research that she conducted over the course of her freshman year of high school and involves engineering a novel, more-cost effective thermoelectric device to generate electricity from industrial waste heat. Her efforts culminated with creating and testing a novel tetrahedrite-magnesium silicide unicouple that can be applied in the industrial waste heat sector as well as the automobile industry to recover energy and boost efficiencies.