Washington, DC - Born in Kolkata, India and brought to the US at the tender age of 7, Ritankar Das overcame financial hardships in his youth to become the youngest University Medalist (top graduating senior) at U.C. Berkeley (over 6000 graduates) in at least a century. The Embassy of India here, in association with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History, on June 10, 2013 lauded Das while launching the Spark!Lab India Project.
In her commendation of Das, the Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, said, “It is indeed a great pleasure to note that Ritankar has become the youngest graduate topper of the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, in more than a century."
Rao praised the "exceptional achievements” of the young Indian American scholar who graduated with a college degree at the age of 18, saying he was “the youngest University Medalist at U.C. Berkeley, amongst over 6000 graduates, and that too with a double major in bioengineering and chemical biology and a minor in creative writing with 3.99 GPA."
"Your wider interests and initiative resulting in the founding of Berkeley Chemical Review research journal and the 'See Your Future' non-profit organization to promote science as a career among school students, and your poetry book 'Silent Moon' are commendable,” Ambassador Rao praised the young prodigy.
The Ambassador wished him all the best as he journeys to Oxford University to pursue a Master's degree in biomedical engineering with a fully funded Whitaker Fellowship and then on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Ritankar has already been admitted to the chemistry Ph.D. program.
During the event, Ambassador Rao also announced the launching of the Young India series by the Indian Embassy, a series of events which will be organized targeting the younger generation.
Ambassador Rao noted that the Spark!Lab India projects bring the best of innovation and cooperation between India and the US. A presentation about Spark!Lab India was made by Director Arthur Molella and by Tricia Edwards, the Education Specialist at the Lemelson Center.
The Smithsonian Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation proposed opening a network of hands-on invention activity spaces called Spark!Labs throughout India. Operating as a public-private partnership (PPP), the Lemelson Center would seek to open 10 pilot Spark!Lab sites, with the goal of jumpstarting an Indian-run network of up to 100 labs. Over the next two years, the Lemelson Center would work to establish the initial cohort of 10 labs throughout the country, while training science, education, and museum professionals in the Spark!Lab philosophy and methodology and identifying leaders to spearhead the expansion of the network from 10 to 100 labs.
Announcing that the activities would incorporate themes and topics relevant to the individual communities in India where Spark!Labs would be located, the Lemelson Center also organized a mini Spark!lab in the Embassy where the children, who were the special invitees for the Young India Series, played and learned about science and scientific principles.