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Junior Academy Alum is Living His Dream

Chirag Kumar

Chirag Kumar

By Mandy Carr, NYAS Staff

As a child, Chirag Kumar saw a photo of the 40 Science Talent Search (STS) Finalists on the steps of Capitol Hill and knew he wanted to be one of them. As soon as he was eligible to apply to the competition, he did. On March 10, 2019, he was awarded a $25,000 scholarship as one of those finalists.

The 17-year-old from Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y., had his first experience with research when he joined The Junior Academy. He liked the program structure of learning the innovation process and then putting that knowledge to solving real-world problems. He worked on the Food Loss and Waste: Water and Agriculture Challenge with a team from all over the world. “My team was interested in developing a smart plan for what farmers could plant that would minimize waste and strain on the local environment while maximizing profit,” Chirag says.

His research for STS focused on improving the accuracy of climate change predictions. He identified seven key variables that impact satellite sea surface temperature (SST) error levels. Then he “developed a machine learning model that estimated those errors and brought them down from 0.82 Celsius to 0.38 Celsius, achieving the 0.4 Celsius breakthrough accuracy as stipulated by the Group for High-Resolution Sea Surface Temperature, an international group that monitors and suggests the use of SST in global climate models.”

The Junior Academy didn’t just give Chirag a foundation for his future research, he also met 2012 Blavatnik Regional Award winner, Dr. Alison Galvani, at the Annual Global STEM Alliance Summit. Her research captivated him, so he approached her after her panel, and they stayed in touch. He now collaborates with two scientists at Dr. Galvani’s Center for Infectious Diseases Modeling (CIDM) at Yale University, School of Public Health.

Chirag will study the intersection of geosciences, biology and public policy/economics at an Ivy League university in the fall.

“I am fascinated by the emerging field of geohealth and am curious as to what public policy measures can be used to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on human health in our ever-changing, complex and highly interconnected world,” he says. “I don't want to just understand the science, but also use it to best serve humanity.”