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Nine budding ethnic Indian scientists meet Obama

March 10, 2009 11:29 IST
United States President Barack Obama has met 40 budding high school scientists, nine of which were Indian-Americans, the highest number from any ethnic community in the country.

Chosen from more than 1,600 applicants from across the country, these 40 high school scientists are the national finalists of the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search. Winner of this programme, to be announced later this week, would receive a grand prize of $100,000.

"Obama discussed with us, how much he values science. The first thing he said that we need science, we really need to push forward science," an ethnic Indian scientist Aditya Rajagopalan, 17, told PTI.

From Glastonbury, Connecticut, Rajagopalan has demonstrated a more efficient and less expensive approach to make ethanol, a clean burning alternative fuel that is derived from the fermentation of sugars extracted from plant biomass.

For almost all of these high school Indian-American scientists, meeting charismatic Obama and shaking hands with him was a moment that they would rarely forget for the rest part of their life.

The Indian Americans told PTI soon after meeting Obama that the president believes that science is the engine of growth of the country. These students left the White House highly impressed by Obama.

"When you compare this with some previous administration, from both parties that the US has, I think, Obama really understands the importance of science. I am glad, he took time out of his schedule to come in and shake hands with all of us. It was a wonderful experience," said Narendra Pundrik Tallapragada, another ethnic Indian school scientist.

17-year-old Tallapragada, of Burke, Virginia used a "bottom up" atomic level approach to develop a complete theory for the bulk electrical properties of one type of crystalline solid for his Intel Science Talent Search project in physics.

"Obama seems to be really supportive of us and the science in general," said Preya Shah, 17, from Setauket, New York, who has designed and synthesized a novel tumor-targeting conjugate drug for cancer treatment. This she believes represents a new generation of chemotherapy agent.

Suvai Gunasekaran, 17, from Wisconsin, who has focused on developing new methods to inhibit bacterial bio film growth on surface of implanted medical devices, said Obama shared with them how his daughter was interested in science.

"He told us about his daughter Malia is also interested in science; what she is learning in school -- about infectious diseases. He is really interested in science and wants to help science," Gunasekaran said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington D.C
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