To better understand the path to becoming a top research scholar, we spoke with Arjun Karanam, a senior at South Forsyth High School.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A lot of what I do centers on using my skills in Technology in order to help my community. I do lots of research projects that utilize computer science, love to make Android apps, and even coordinate workshops at my local library teaching elementary school kids how to code! I also love to debate and practice archery in my spare time. I became interested in science and conducting research back in middle school, when I conducted a project on optimizing the efficiency of solar panels. Back then (and to this day), it fascinated me that as just a student, I could contribute to a massive body of work and potentially come across a finding that could help other people.
How did you become involved in the Regeneron Science Talent Search?
Over my high school career, I've participated in numerous science competitions, from the ubiquitous Science Fair to competitions like the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and the Siemens STEM competition. The holy grail has always been the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a competition restricted to seniors that serves not only as an evaluation of your research project, but as a culmination of all you've done as a scientist.
What is your research project about?
My research project is title "Using Oil Compounds and Machine Learning Algorithms in order to Develop an Effective and Affordable Solution to Mitigate Radon Gas." The research process itself was full of many twists and turns, with most of it being my spending countless in my basement perfecting my experimental design. Along the way, there were many challenges, such as finding a way to stop the experimental chamber from leaking and creating an algorithm with the proper accuracy rate, but part of the fun of conducting research is finding a way to overcome these challenges and face the next ones.
The inspiration for my research project came from one of my relatives being diagnosed with Lung Cancer from a reason that many wouldn't expect - Radon Poisoning. Immediately afterward, I became dedicated to finding a more affordable and accessible method to prevent Radon Poisoning, because many current solutions either cost thousands of dollars, require a massive renovation to your home, or both. Although I didn't envision it at first (I always thought my project would never leave my basement), I know have a provisional patent on my invention and my project is now being tested by several local non-profit organizations for an eventual rollout to Radon-heavy acreas across Georgia.
What advice would you give someone who wants to enter the Regeneron Science Talent Search?
The first step to having a Regeneron entry is to both have a research project and have a love for science (and have it show through the stuff you do.) Whenever people ask me how to come up with an idea for a research idea, I never have a right answer. The way I come up with my research projects is very organic, and usually results just from things I notice about the world around me. For example, the inspiration from my Regneneron project came from my relative, and the inspiration behind another project came from me being frustrated at my phone's ever declining battery life. The best problems to solve are those that have effected you either directly or indirectly.
Obviously you’re a pretty smart guy. What are your plans after high school?
Currently, I have been accepted to and plan to attend Princeton University, where I will be studying Computer Science with minors in Cognitive Science and Robotics and Intelligent Machines. Beyond college, I would like to create my own startup company where I would continue my goal of using technology (specifically Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence) in order to help my community as much as possible.