January 28, 2020

An Eye on the Sky: Ames High Senior Pooja Kasiviswanathan Named a Top Science Scholar

Top Science Scholar Graphic

“Ever since I looked up into the night sky, I have always wondered if there is another planet like Earth out there.” This is the inquisitive thinking that has driving Ames High senior Pooja Kasiviswanathan to be named a top 300 scholar in the 79th Regeneron Science Talent Search—the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high school seniors. 

Throughout her high school career, Kasiviswanathan has been encouraged by teachers and her parents to push the boundaries of what she can accomplish. She has gained multiple recognitions from the state, national, and international levels, and last year she presented at the symposium of the American Junior Academy of Science/American Association for the Advancement of Science/National Association for the Academies of Science in Washington D.C. and was inducted as a Fellow. That same year, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona, she won two Special Awards and scholarships, including one from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). These moments made Kasiviswanathan realize how innovative her research is and to apply for the talent search. 

Kasiviswanathan attended an Astrobiology residential program at the University of Iowa several years ago and afterward started collecting information on what the future might hold in Astrobiology. “I was excited to know about NASA’s current research regarding its future missions. My inspiration from NASA’s Astrobiology research and current challenges on Earth motivated me to find answers to my questions in my project.” Kasiviswanathan’s project was titled Farming on Mars: Potential Strategies for Sustainable Agriculture.

With over 2,000 applicants from American and international schools, she knew the competition would be tough. “Being named a Scholar is truly an honor for me as I now join the program’s alumni which include recipients of the world’s most coveted science and math honors (National Medals of Science, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, and Nobel Prizes).” 

Reacting to the recognition, Ames High Science Teacher DeAnna Tibben points to Kasiviswanathan’s meticulous methods, detailed observations and data analysis as keys to her success. “Pooja is the type of student (and future scientist) who will move our society forward in our scientific thinking. I’m appreciative that I was able to be a part of her journey. I look forward to hearing about her successes after high school!” Next year, Kasiviswanathan plans to major in chemical or biosystems engineering.