Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sreya Vemuri wins prestigious $25,000 prize for work in math, science



Judges were impressed by Sreya Vemuri's research into how light travels through optic fibers.

Sreya Vemuri never expected that her research into how light travels through optic fibers would yield a result, let alone a $25,000 prize.

The 17-year-old Carmel High School student said she was stunned to learn she was named one of the 2015 Davidson Fellows by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a national organization devoted to nurturing intelligent youths and providing opportunities for them to develop their talents.

Vemuri is one of only 20 students across the country to receive this honor.

“I really just submitted it on a whim,” the senior said. “When I first started the research, I didn’t even expect to get results. I was really, really surprised when they informed me that I won.”

Vemuri, who has had a lifelong interest in math and science, said she is curious about the world, and that inquisitive spirit fueled her project. Vemuri’s work has applications in many areas of optics, such as making lasers, and has important applications in designing computers.

One of the judges who reviewed her work said it was on par with that of a college senior or graduate student, said Tacie Moessner, Davidson Fellows Scholarship program manager.

“One judge said that Sreya’s project is one of the best fundamental projects he’s ever reviewed — he’s been a judge for many years,” Moessner said. “Her application speaks truth about the quantum world, and that is of interest to any civilization, human or otherwise.

“That means it has huge implications for the future.”

Vemuri’s project stood out because of its subject matter, Moessner said. It was extremely complex and was a mathematical feat, she said.

“She was able to focus her research on this one particular problem and not get sidetracked or distracted by other things,” Moessner said. “She was able to have this narrow focus and delve deeply into it.”

Vemuri, who is the second Carmel student to place in the competition since 2011, said she’s undecided about where she’ll attend college and will use the $25,000 prize to help pay her tuition.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve done math competitions, and I’ve been fascinated by how you can solve such complex problems using mathematics,” she said. “I’ve discovered that it’s exciting to solve an unknown problem that no one knows the answer to.

“For a moment, you’re the only person in the world who knows this science and this knowledge.”
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