Gitanjali Rao’s profile and achievements defy conventional wisdom on human growth. At 15, this Indian-American girl hailing from Colorado (USA), is a scientist, an innovator and a motivational speaker who wants to transform the world and alleviate human suffering through science and technology.
In her Twitter profile, she calls herself a “student, fencer (cyber game player), author, speaker, community volunteer, science enthusiast, STEM promoter and board member.” The latest feather in Gitanjali’s cap is her being featured on the cover of TIME magazine as TIME’s 2020 ‘Kid of the Year’, chosen from among 5,000 nominees.
At 12, she delivered her first TED talk that is usually reserved for persons of fame and experience. Till now, she has delivered three TED talks and several other talks to parents and educators to motivate them to help their children become innovators.
In an interview with Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, Gitanjali revealed the secret behind her extraordinary achievements: curiosity, concern for fellow humans and a propensity to pick a problem for solving it. “There wasn’t any aww moment!” she told Jolie on being asked about when she found the inclination to become a scientist. A blend of charm and confidence, her countenance during the interview stole everyone’s heart. She told Jolie that she aspires to study genetics and epidemiology at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at the same time train to become a pilot.
In September, last year, Gitanjali’s book, A Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM: 5 Steps to Problem-solving for Students, Educators and Parents, was released. The idea behind the book, on sale on Amazon, is to make everyone a problem-solver. Her generosity to spread scientific temper is highly praiseworthy as she treats science as a means of solving the problem and not as something done in the isolation of a lab full of chemicals and devices.
In 2017, Gitanjali was awarded “America’s Top Young Scientist” by the Discovery Channel. Receiving the Award, with the simplicity of a young girl of her age, she said many of her innovations were inspired by just watching the news!
Aasha Khosa is a journalist with four decades of experience in print and broadcast journalism. The first woman journalist from J&K, she covered national politics, environment, social and women related issues for Indian Express and Business Standard from Delhi.