India-born wonder kid Ritankar Das, who this year became the youngest graduate topper of the prestigious University of California in more than a century, has been felicitated by the Indian embassy in Washington for his outstanding academic achievements.
Indian Ambassador to United States Nirupama Rao felicitated 18-year-old Das, who has taken just three years to complete his studies with a double major in bioengineering and chemical biology and a minor in creative writing from the University of California, Berkeley.
Kolkata-born Das is the first student from the College of Chemistry in 58 years, and the first ever from the Department of Bioengineering, to earn the honour, which includes a $2,500 scholarship.
In his remarks, Das said he seeks inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi.
"Gandhi believed that everybody had a right to a beautiful life and without his efforts, I can say I would not have been here today," Das told a select audience at an event held at the Indian embassy on Monday.
"Without people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, without their efforts, I would not have been here," said Das, who is fluent in Bengali and Hindi.
Das will now head to Oxford University to pursue a master's degree in biomedical engineering with a fully funded Whitaker Fellowship.
He has founded See Your Future, a student-run non-profit that presents scientific content to middle and high school students through in-class demonstrations, videos, interactive activities and games.
"In this span of just 18 years, he has been able to achieve so much. He has put all of us to shame after coming out with such flying colours at the UC-Berkley and breaking all records over a century," Rao said.
"He has not only brought glory to this country, but also to his mother country," she added.
At Berkeley, Das helped manage a $1.7 billion budget as an Academic Senator, founded the Berkeley Chemical Review research journal, designed a chemistry DeCal course and was a graduate student instructor.