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Senior Shruthi Ravichandran Participated in Prestigious Research Program

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Authored by Shruthi Ravichandran ’21

Every year, approximately 50 domestic and 30 international high school rising seniors are chosen from more than 1,600 applicants to attend the Research Science Institute, a six-week intensive research program, co-hosted by the Center for Excellence in Education and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Due to COVID-19, the program was fully virtualized and ran from June 21 to August 1. The first week of the program was filled with daily classes and evening lectures. All students took humanities, in addition to two other classes of their choice; I attended Physics and Engineering. Learning from professors doing cutting-edge research and leading their fields was an incredible experience.

Evening lecturers included Nobel Prize winners like Dr. John Mather (Physics, 2006) and Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle (Physics, 2001), entrepreneurs like Tom Leighton (CEO, Akamai) and Ali Partovi (Founder, Code.org), and cutting edge researchers like Dr. Andrew Murphy (Executive Vice President of Research at Regeneron). The opportunity to listen to and ask questions of the leaders of STEM and entrepreneurship was beyond exciting and inspiring. 

I conducted research with Mr. Richard Hamlin and the team at Quantum Risk Analytics, Inc to create a COVID-19 Risk Assessment Model for informing businesses, institutions, and the government, and aid in taking precautions in reopening procedures. I worked on creating a machine learning model to detect and classify the type of mask from video feed and geo-tagged images to evaluate mask compliance in areas from security feeds and social media images. The four weeks of research culminated in a final paper and presentation that was presented to the whole RSI community of students and alumni.

To fully recreate the experience, the counselors (alums of the program from the previous year) hosted nightly “bed checks” with our counselor groups (groups of approximately 12 students). Additionally, there were many weekend social events, including International Night (hosted at 11 am EST to accommodate Asia-Pacific students), Talent Show, and other RSI time-honored traditions! Points from these events accrued to a final “counselor cup” in which my counselor group ranked third! Through all of these events, I was able to meet and develop close friendships with incredible students from all around the world!

RSI was an amazing experience and I would strongly urge anyone with interest in research and in STEM to apply! Especially in light of the global pandemic, it becomes clear that the world is in dire need of solutions from young innovators and minds, and participation in RSI has only reaffirmed my belief it is up to us to build the future we want to live in. 

I am so thankful to the CEE and RSI staff who worked so hard to recreate such an incredible program virtually and inspire and support the next generation of student researchers. I am also so thankful to the SREP program and Dr. Crystal Miller at Hathaway Brown and the Omega Nano Lab at Case Western Reserve University, especially my mentors Dr. Peter Bielecki and Dr. Stathis Karathanasis, who have allowed me to grow as a researcher and scientist and find a true passion for creating solutions to problems in the world around us!

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