Is there really an age to accomplish something? No, not really. This story of a 17 year old boy named Prashaant Ranganathan, who belongs to Jamshedpur, a small town in the state of Jharkhand proves the fact that age is not a bar to be an achiever in life. Prashaant is a Grand award winner at the Intel ISEF, a winner of tech niche tech expo held at IIT Guwahati, One of the 25 Global Finalists in the Lab to Moon challenge and soon an asteroid in our solar system is going to be named after Prashaant! He has changed the face of agriculture in the entire World. For his outstanding project he has been awarded with a whopping sum of 8000 USD and his college too has been awarded with 1000 USD. Besides, In the Lab to Moon challenge, Prashaant found out that wheat can be harvested in space as well. A Junior Scientist, is the correct notation for this brilliant mind!
In talks with Prashaant Ranganathan:
Q1. Tell us something about yourself.
Hey there, I am Prashaant Ranganathan, I’m 17 years old, born in Salem in Tamil Nadu and brought up in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. I am currently a senior in my high school (Carmel Junior College). I love spending time in labs doing research and listening to music. I am a science fair junky, a scientist and an innovator. I would like to go to college and do majors in biological field such as immunology or pharmacology or environmental Science and make a difference in people’s lives.
Q2. You have made entire India proud. Explain your project, What is it about and its benefits.
My project is on increasing the efficiency of Biodegradation of the pesticide chlorpyrifos using bacteria which is native to the soil. I was able to device a method to biodegrade chlorpyrifos -which in some cases could take years to biodegrade in the soil – within 30 days . Wrong and extensive use of pesticide can adversely affect the environment around the farm. Especially pollinators like bees . The pesticide can settle on toys and curtains and this sets children at a higher risk of being affected.
Q3. What inspired you to go for this project? How did you end up working on this project?
We had been given a school project in chemistry on the topic “Chemistry in Agriculture”, so to do a proper research on the topic I decided to visit farms around my town where I found this peculiar trend amongst most farmers, they believed that amount of pesticides used is directly proportional to the yield and as a result the farms of such farmers were containing toxic quantities of pesticides. Sometimes you could even smell the pesticide in the air. The effects were blatantly visible, some farmers reported that they hadn’t seen a single beehive around their farm for 2 years. This is really scary because bees pollinate nearly one third of the food we consume and without them we would descend into a terrible food crisis. This is where I got my motivation to work to solve this problem which is plaguing farms across India and the world.
Q4. Soon there is going to be a planet named after you in the solar system. How does it feel? How does winning the Grand award at Intel ISEF feel?
It feels good, Surreal. To be honest it was the last thing I was expecting about the award ceremony. When I heard my name, I was going through feelings of shock, bliss and excitement.
Q5. How have your school and teachers helped you and led you towards success?
My school and teachers have definitely made my path to achieve my goals a little easier by providing me access to labs and library and encouraging me in all the way possible for them.
Q6. What do you aspire to become?
I aspire to become a good scientist and I want to make a difference in the world through science.
Q7. Who has been your inspiration? Who has been your mentor and guide?
Alan Turing. His life, accomplishment and the very implications and consequences of his work makes me admire him. To stay strong in the most adverse situations.
For this project, I was working under a scientist Dr.Priyanka at the Institution of Nano Science and Technology in Chandigarh. Also my Mom and Dad have been guiding me in other aspects of the project such as, putting it out in the world and helping me acquire materials I require.
Q8. What do you plan to do with the prize money you have received?
I plan on investing a part of it on my education and on developing my research work.
Q9. Any messages for the budding scientists?
Persist. Stay strong. Try to be your truest self. Don’t let what others think bother you.
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