Obama lauds two time Google Science Fair Indian American champion ‘Pranav’

Pranav at the Astronomy Night at the White House, October 19.
Pranav at the Astronomy Night at the White House, October 19.

WASHINGTON (TIP): Another Indian American kid has created history by becoming the first person to earn a second time Global Finalist award in the 2015 Google Science Fair. But what made this accomplishment even more special was the shout-out to this kid by US President Barack Obama at White House Astronomy Night where bright young kids were present.

Obama lauds two time Google Science Fair Indian American championUS President Barack Obama has lauded a budding Indian-American astronomy buff who has the distinction of being the first person to be a Global Finalist in Google Science Fair twice. The Astronomy Night was held Monday, Oct 19, at the White House.

“Pranav was a global finalist in the Google Science Fair — not once, but twice. So you know he’s going to do some important things. Give him a big round of applause,” Obama said.

Pranav at the Astronomy Night at the White House, October 19.
Pranav at the Astronomy Night at the White House, October 19.

Pranav, 15, was chosen out of only 10 students in his age category, 7 Americans, and 20 total students worldwide to make the finals of this year’s Google Science Fair. His research addressed resolvable image configurations of quasars in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, allowing him to identify 109 new high probability quasar candidates. Pranav has also won the Astronomical League’s National Young Astronomer Award, two National Semi-finalist awards in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, taking second place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“When Pranav Sivakumar was six years old, he found an encyclopedia about famous scientists lying around the house.

At least he thinks it was lying around there. Actually, his parents probably were setting it out hoping he was going to run into it,” Obama said.

“And he’s been fascinated with outer space ever since. For years, every Saturday morning, his parents drove him an hour to an astrophysics lab for ‘Ask-A-Scientist’ class. And before long, he teamed up with researchers he met there to study the ‘gravitational lensing of quasars’. That is not what I was thinking about at his age,” the US President said.

An eighth grader at the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois, Pranav is one of 20 teens from across the world to be named a finalist in Google’s online science and technology competition.

He received the Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award last month for researching objects called quasars that appear unusually bright in the night sky.

Pranav, a runner up in the 2013 National Spelling Bee, is working to find galaxies dominated by dark matter with a professor at the University of Chicago.

As part of winning the Virgin Galactic Pioneer award, he gets to tour the company’s Mojave Air and Spaceport to meet the company’s engineers, and also gets a personal tour of Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship.

“It has been an exciting journey,” Pranav, who hails from Obama’s hometown of Chicago, said in a recent press release.

“I plan to continue this research for many years, hoping to contribute at least a little to our understanding of dark matter and dark energy, which make up 95 per cent of the universe and determine its future,” he said.


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