From Bengaluru to the Milky Way—how this 12th grader got a planet named after her
A 12th-grade student who presented an award-winning paper on how to tackle those little specks of froth that are manifestations of the pollutants in our lakes now has a little speck in the infinite universe named after her.
Meet Sahithi Pingali, a student at Inventure Academy, Bengaluru. Here's how she became one of the gifted few individuals whose roles in the advancement of the world led to minor planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, being named after them.
She recently participated in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious pre-college-level science competitions, and cracked the top 2,000 list of finalists. She then presented her paper—“An Innovative Crowdsourcing Approach to Monitoring Freshwater Bodies”—based on the insights she had gathered through an app she herself had engineered, and a lake monitoring kit she created to collect crowdsourced data on the issue. Her presentation and findings were so impressive that she was among the top three percent of the finalists at ISEF overall, and placed second in the Earth and Environment Sciences category.
Of the 21 awards won by the Indian contingent, three were bagged by her alone. She was, thus, identified by the Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which holds the right to name minor planets.
She is now interning at the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Michigan, which will further help her in her research surrounding water pollution.
“I definitely didn’t see this coming. I was expecting one special award, at the most. I haven’t yet digested the fact that I have a planet named after me. I want to make (my research) more accurate and expand it to detect arsenic,” she told The Hindu.
The Inventure student has won various laurels for her research in the past as well. Last December, she won the Grand Award at the IRIS Science Fair in Pune for her paper titled “A New Approach to Monitoring Lakes in Developing Countries: Crowdsourcing Environmental Science,” and more recently, she took home the gold medal at the International Sustainable World Engineering Energy Environment Project (ISWEEEP) Olympiad in Houston for her study on Varthur Lake.