Creative Persistence at Work


As a kid, I built complex Legos and 3D models of Star Wars figures, famous monuments and futuristic vehicles.  My creations occupied my entire room till my Mom asked me to dismantle a few to create space to walk.  I took my skills up several notches in high school by attending numerous in-school and summer camps involving designing electric cars (NuVu – and MIT & Harvard collaboration), coding and robotics (TRAI camps in my school), website and apps (boot camp at New York Coding and Learning Academy), video games (Digipen at Seattle) and marketing technology products (Columbia University).  These efforts came to fruit when I co-developed a Smart Trash Can that got chosen as the only student project presented at ASB Unplugged, a TED equivalent conference hosted by my school for students and practitioners across Mumbai.  I also designed a water-proof solar light, a product that won the BizSmart Business Plan Competition, organized by a Stanford-affiliated organization.  My science-related endeavors and projects have been recognized in school and I have been awarded the school mission award for Continuous Enquiry for four years in a row from the 8th grade to the 11th grade. These awards are given only to 8-10 students among 180 in the high school.

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Students of American School of Bombay innovate ‘smart garbage cans’

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In the winter break of the 9th grade I took part in an entrepreneurship intersession organized by the Stanford Camp Biz smart organization in which the students were separated into different teams in order to compete with each other and develop the best new solar lamp for farmers to use in rural environments. My team, named the muffin stuffers, made a product named TriLumina for the Mindanao Island Philippines after they had suffered a hurricane. I was the CTO of my team and was in charge of the technological aspects and the design of the product. For the product, I used google sketchup to design it and the idea behind our product was why have one lamp when there could be three lamps for the price of one. In the design, I included a lock feature where the lamps could be combined as one or could be used separate lamps by different members of the family as well as have a USB so that the lamp could not only provide light but help charge their phones. Finally, after all of our hard work, our team won the award for best product and best business plan of the camp and I was voted as best CTO.


Playing drums is my release and it is one thing I enjoy a lot. I have been playing drums since the age of 10 and have completed 5 levels of Trinity certifications.  I am one of the two best drummers in my high school and a member of the school’s Elite Jazz Band, comprising the school’s best musicians. My favorite pieces are Birdland and White Room.

Rock & Pop Drums Certificate

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The roots of my interest in Biology go back to early childhood when I would watch Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic channels on TV.  When I turned 12, I binge-read all issues of National Geographic since the year 2000.  Later my interests turned to DNA Science and Genetics, and I cemented that by attending a Summer Course at Brown University in 2013, where I was singled out by the course professor for “demonstrating the essential characteristics of a successful scientist.”  Last year, I interned at a Biotech company called SciGenome and learned about gene sequencing, bio-informatics and most fascinatingly learning about a gene modification equipment called CRISPR-CAS 9.  That experience opened up my mind to how genetic science and stem cell treatment could cure diseases and extend human longevity.  With mentoring from the senior executives at SciGenom, I took up the challenge of tackling my IB Extended Essay on the research question, “Does the rise of genetics and stem cell research that extends human longevity create a significant economic burden in the United States?” This essay allows me to combine my biology-related developments with the social challenges that get created if people live longer.  The combination of biology and computer science particularly excites me and I intend to pursue these subjects further in college.

Genomics, Stem Cells, Human Longevity Extension and Economic Impact (preview of the essay as in the introduction below)

The questions regarding extending human life beyond its potential have puzzled and challenged the human race over the centuries. Right from the ancient empires such as the Chinese, who believed in an elixir that compromised gold would be the answer to immortality to the Conquistador-centered legend of the fountain of youth, the pursuit of extending the human life has been popularized across the globe. While the two aforementioned examples are mainly categorized as myths, the question still remains at large. However, with the constant development of technology leading to the full map of the DNA from the Human Genome Project in 2003, there is speculation yet again that the age old question about successfully extending the average lifespan of human beings can be answered by the rapidly galloping advancements in genetics and stem cell research.

The science of genetics and stem cells based treatments has advanced considerably in the last decade and new avenues have been identified and tested to treat dangerous and potentially fatal diseases such as cancer and Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). There is even some evidence that these treatments are working well. These advancements prompted Craig Venter, a biotechnologist and entrepreneur, to launch the Human Longevity Project, whose goal is to extend and enhance the healthy, high-performance lifespan and change the face of aging. However, the implications of these positive advancements go beyond improving health and longevity as advanced economies such as the US may not be ready to handle an even more ageing population than what they currently have and deal with the economic consequences of people living longer.

The current average life span in the US is 77.6 and traditionally, the official retirement age in the United States has been 65, as that was when citizens received their full benefits from their social security. However, what happens when the life span of average citizen in the United States increases dramatically due to genetics and stem cell research? Does that mean the retirement age increases to beyond 70 years or higher? That would also cause the birth rate in the US to significantly exceed the death rate and population to rise. Extending the human life through scientific progress has always been thought of as a dream come true but would it actually create a huge societal and economic burden? These questions become particularly important in the US as social security and health care costs have increased considerably over the last three decades and led to a huge budget deficits and risks for the economy.

Increasing life expectancy is not entirely a new issue in the US as in 1983 the United States Congress made amendments to social security bill as they noticed the lifespan of the average citizen was increasing. To address this, the Congress passed a bill on the full retirement age benefits in 1983 in order to spread social costs better across the different generations. As the bill highlighted, those born in 1938 or before would receive their full retirement benefits at the traditional retirement age of 65 while those born 1960 or later would receive it fully once they are 67. However, these amendments happened 33 years ago and they do not take into account that scientific progress in areas like genetics and stem cell research can now even further increase life expectancy and create an even larger economic burden.

To examine this issue to a greater depth, I shall use topics covered in both Economics and Biology to answer my research question, “Does the rise in genetic and stem cell enabled human longevity cause significant economic burdens in the United States?”

Target Man

While I enjoy playing soccer, basketball, badminton and table tennis, I chose archery as my primary sport and have been training under India’s former No. 1 archer, Mr. Swapnil Parab for over four years.  Like drumming, I find archery therapeutic and I really look forward to my practice sessions and tournaments.  I recently started competing at the state level and expect to improve a lot in the coming year.  Besides the active sports, I also enjoy rowing and rappelling, and a variety of eSports such as FIFA and Assassins Creed on PlayStation, besides Pokemon Go.


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Salaam Baalak

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