WashingtonExec is a proud news outlet for a variety of issues in the D.C. metro area, one of them being STEM. We got a chance to talk with a student, Mayank Mahajan, who is enrolled at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST). He spoke with us about his early beginnings as a Gifted and Talented student, what he likes about high school, college and career aspirations, why STEM, and more.
WashingtonExec: When did you first become interested in STEM?
Mayank Mahajan: I think I first realized I loved math and science in elementary school. I loved the ability to decipher seemingly complicated problems and create solutions for them, and math and science fit those criteria wonderfully. Throughout school, my curiosity and love for critical thinking fomented my passion for math and science.
WashingtonExec: Tell us about your elementary and middle school experience.
Mayank Mahajan: I moved in the third grade from California to Virginia, and the next year, I was placed in the Gifted and Talented Program. This program allowed me to benefit from peers who were equally interested in learning. At my elementary school, I was fortunate to have superb math and science teachers that encouraged me to explore these fields in depth. My middle school was a continuation of the GT program, and the technology electives I took solidified my interest in the STEM fields.
WashingtonExec: You are currently enrolled at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST). Tell us what you like most about high school.
Mayank Mahajan: What I valued most about attending Thomas Jefferson High School was the privileges and freedoms that were given to students. At Thomas Jefferson, there are no bells telling people when to start and stop classes. Students are free to eat wherever they want during lunch, go to the restroom when they want, and work on many assignments at their own pace. I get to take courses like Bio-Nanotechnology or Organic Chemistry that aren’t even available in other high schools. On any given day, I can pick from over 100 activities. These little perks add up to an experience that is very rewarding and extraordinary.
WashingtonExec: You are quite active at TJ. What are you most proud of?
Mayank Mahajan: I have been involved with the Lemelson-MIT Inventeams Competition, in which teams of students solve current problems with innovative inventions. My team addressed autism, and our proposed solution is a device that autistic children could wear that could listen to a person’s speech and tell the child what emotion they are feeling. This project has been a great application of the things I’ve learned in school, and we’ve gotten a $10,000 grant to further develop the project! We’ll be presenting our research at MIT’s annual convention this June.
WashingtonExec: What person has the most influence on you and why?
Mayank Mahajan: Honestly, I would never be able to pick one person that has helped me become the person I am today. My teachers have been excellent sources of knowledge and advice, and throughout my education, they have not only taught me but also made me excited to learn new things. I am very grateful to my research mentors for giving me the opportunity to perform research in extremely prestigious laboratories. And my parents have always been supportive of me and encouraged me to do my best.
WashingtonExec: What advice would you give parents who want their kids to encourage them to focus on STEM?
Mayank Mahajan: For parents who want kids to explore STEM fields, I would recommend that they show how cool math and science can be. These fields get a bad rap among a lot of students because they associate math and science with difficult and dull concepts taught in classes. But math and science can be really interesting, and cool math tricks and neat science projects can be a great way to pique kids’ interests in math and science.
WashingtonExec: What do you want to do when you go to college?
Mayank Mahajan: Nothing is set in stone right now, but at the moment I’m looking at either computer science or some stream of engineering. Both engineering and CS are two fields that have really interested me throughout high school, and at college I plan to take a variety of courses to narrow down exactly what I want to do.
WashingtonExec: What do you do in your free time?
Mayank Mahajan: At Thomas Jefferson, free time doesn’t come very often, but when it does I make sure to use it wisely! I’m a coxswain for the men’s crew team, and we practice on the Occoquan River 6 days a week in the spring. I enjoy hanging out with my friends, watching movies, surfing the Internet, or taking a good nap.