Pooja Chandrashekar, daughter of IT immigrants to US from Bengaluru, was recently in news all over India. Pooja has earned admission to 14 top US universities, including all 8 Ivy League schools considered the most prestigious varsities worldwide.
Virginia-born Pooja Chandrashekar decided to apply to all eight Ivy's hoping to get into just one of them.
But now she has the choice to get into Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Yale University, Stanford, MIT, Duke, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, and Georgia Tech, bagging a perfect 14 out of 14.
CareerIndia gives you the exclusive interview with Pooja Chandrashekhar. Here she tells about her achievements, her motivation, which university she chooses to go in and many more.
CareerIndia Interview with Pooja Chandrashekar
1. What motivates you for your achievements?
I'm motivated to do the work that I do because I strive to make a difference and I believe that the projects I'm working on can really bring about a change.
From the research that I've done on Parkinson's disease and mild traumatic brain injury to the nonprofit that I founded, I take up projects that I see as having the potential to have a social impact.
2. Tell us something about which university you choose to attend?
I'm not entirely sure yet - I have until May 1st to make a final decision! I'm deciding between Harvard and Stanford right now so I'll be visiting both to get a sense of the campus feel, talk with current students, and get an idea of the opportunities available on and around campus.
I'm hoping to do research, write for a college newspaper or literary magazine, continue my work with promoting women in computer science, and study abroad, to name a few.
3. How much time do you allot for studying? Apart from academics, what are you interested in?
It depends on how much work I have on a particular day, but I usually spend around three hours in the evenings doing homework, studying, and doing things directly related to schoolwork.
My biggest extracurricular is ProjectCSGIRLS but apart from that, I love to write, play tennis, and listen to music. I also love Bollywood movies! I think it's important to maintain a balance between hard work and having fun/relaxing.
4. What are the things that motivated you to work for such big projects like ProjectCSGIRLS?
I started ProjectCSGIRLS as a result of my own experiences facing the tech gender gap in my high school computer science classes. Walking into my AP Computer Science class on my first day of high school and realizing that there were only three girls in the class including myself was shocking, especially in a school as science and tech focused as mine.
That's what motivated me to found an organization that strives to build confidence and inspire technological innovation in middle school girls.
5. Once you said that idea behind the project is to show girls that they can use technology for social impact. How far your plan for the project has become a reality?
ProjectCSGIRLS hosts a national computer science competition that challenges middle school girls across the country to use technology to develop projects with social impact and the success that we have had with the program has exceeded all of my expectations.
We were able to reach over 500 girls nationally this year through the competition and over 200 girls nationally through our regional computer science workshops. Our team grew from just myself to over 50 high school and college students spread out across the country who serve as ambassadors for ProjectCSGIRLS and host workshops in their local area.
I've also personally had incredible opportunities as a result of my work with ProjectCSGIRLS, including being invited to the White House and being invited to present ProjectCSGIRLS to top Silicon Valley executives.
6. What are the difficulties that you faced while working on so many things at this young age?
While it can sometimes get difficult to manage my schoolwork, extracurriculars, and research, I always tell myself that if you have the passion, drive, and motivation, you will get everything done and still have fun while doing it.
I think the trick is to immerse yourself in activities and work that you truly enjoy!
7. Can you talk about the mobile app you have developed to detect Parkinson's disease?
The app detects Parkinson's disease by analyzing vocal tremors in a person's speech when they speak into the app for 10-15 seconds. The app has been shown to be 96% accurate in detecting whether or not a person has Parkinson's and was tested on a dataset of over 250 speech recordings of patients with and without Parkinson's disease.
I was recognized by Siemens for my work on this project and will also be presenting this work at the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Applications of Dynamical Systems Conference in May.
Other research projects I've worked on include developing a novel diagnostic test for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI / concussion), for which I recognized by Intel, and a glucose biosensor connected mobile app for smart diabetes management, for which I was recognized by the Conrad Foundation.
8. Where can we download this app from?
The app is not publicly available yet but hopefully will be available by next year.
9. Will you have the time to further develop this mobile app when you are attending undergraduate classes?
Yes absolutely! I'm hoping to get involved with entrepreneurship opportunities in college, so I will have plenty of time to continue developing the app and beginning other ventures during my time there.
10. Describe a frustrating or challenging experience you've encountered and how did you deal with it?
It was very challenging for me when I first started ProjectCSGIRLS two years ago. As a high school sophomore with no experience founding a nonprofit and with no team to help support my work, I have to figure out almost every detail for myself, from designing the website to emailing hundreds of teachers to reaching out to sponsors.
While it was certainly challenging, every minute was worth far more than its weight in the end and it was an incredible experience to see that ProjectCSGIRLS really did change the lives of many of the girls who participated.
11. What are your future plans?
After undergrad, I hope to go to medical school and eventually work at the intersection of medicine, technology, and business as a physician developing innovative healthcare technologies.
I might even pursue an MD/MBA to combine my interests in clinical practice and medical device innovation and entrepreneurship. I also hope to continue doing research throughout college and medical school, and also continue to pursue my interests in creative writing and English.