Archis R. Bhandarkar is a junior attending Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. As an advocate for STEM, the high school student is not only an Siemens Regional Finalist for his research in computational biomechanics, a USA Biology and Physics Olympiad Semifinalist, but he is also a graduate of the Nysmith School for the gifted.
Most forthcoming is the news that Bhandarkar will be offering his perspective about STEM March 8 at WashingtonExec‘s inaugural STEM Symposium. The event promises to bring together more than 500 K-12 students, parents and industry professionals to talk about STEM education and careers. Leidos will serve as the event’s presenting sponsor.
Bhandarkar spoke with WashingtonExec about his passion for math and science, his experience at both Nysmith and Thomas Jefferson High and what advice he has for parents who want to see their kids excel at STEM.
WashingtonExec: When did you first realize your love for math and science?
Archis R. Bhandarkar: I feel that a child-like curiosity is the creative engine of today’s research in STEM. In that regard, I always had a passion for exploring the curious world around me ever since I was young. Back in Kindergarten, I would make stacks of paper towel rolls just to see how many could be stacked until all the rolls would fall or try to make a guitar from a tissue box and rubber bands. I always had a love for exploration; I guess the first time I realized this was a love for science was when I applied the same curiosity in my middle school science classroom.
WashingtonExec: Tell us about your elementary and middle school experience.
Archis R. Bhandarkar: Overall, my elementary and middle school experience at Nysmith was really conducive to both my growth as a scientist and as a person. The teachers were extremely motivational and empowered my passion for learning, making each class a creative playground.
WashingtonExec: You are currently enrolled at Thomas Jefferson High School. Tell us what you like most about high school.
Archis R. Bhandarkar: I think the most captivating aspect of TJHSST is the drive for innovation; there just seems to be a creative atmosphere about the whole place. Not a single day goes by that something amazing doesn’t happen at TJHSST.
WashingtonExec: What person has the most influence on you and why?
Archis R. Bhandarkar: My research mentor and applied mathematics professor at George Mason University, Dr. Padhu Seshaiyer, truly had a profound impact on me. My work with him over the past few summers has been an amazing experience, and he has really been a father figure to me in nurturing my interest in STEM. He truly guided me on how to stand on my own as a scientist, as I worked on my problem regarding the computational bio-mechanics of lung failure.
My parents also have been really supportive of me throughout my high-school career and have encouraged me to become an independent, strong-minded individual.
WashingtonExec: You are quite active at TJ. What are you most proud of?
Archis R. Bhandarkar: I would say I am most proud of my qualification as a Siemens Regional Finalist this year for the work I had done over the summer on my computational bio-mechanics project. It really feels great when people appreciate the novelty and potential of a research problem you solve.
WashingtonExec: What advice would you give parents who want their kids to encourage them to focus on STEM?
Archis R. Bhandarkar: My best advice would be to have kids explore and encourage them to ask and answer questions about the world around them. The places you can get to with a genuine curiosity know no bounds. Sometimes even the most interesting questions are the ones that seem very simple. For example, a lot of kids love to play on their Nintendo DSs. The very natural question of “How does the information on the cartridge go into the game I play?” can launch an interesting exploration into the nature of circuits and game design. Free resources like Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and Wikipedia are great outlets for kids to independently go on their own and answer their own questions like this one.
WashingtonExec: What do you want to do when you go to college?
Archis R. Bhandarkar: I would like to major in bio-medical engineering and strive for an MD/PhD, continuing my passion for research.
WashingtonExec: What do you do in your free time?
Archis R. Bhandarkar: Often in my free time I just like to sit and think. I also enjoy playing Chess and Go.