Ambassador Rao salutes
whiz kid Ritankar Das
Indian Ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao last
week accorded a rousing
felicitation at the Indian
embassy to Kolkata-
born whiz kid Ritankar
‘It is indeed a great
pleasure,’ Rao said, ‘to
note that Ritankar has
become the youngest
graduate topper of the
prestigious University of
California, Berkeley, in
more than a century. We
feel extremely proud to
know your exceptional
achievements as a young
Indian American as, at
the age of 18, you are the
Medalist at UC Berkeley,
amongst over 6,000
graduates, and that too
with a double major in
;Page A12 Ritankar Das with Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao.
KIND COURTES Y: INDIAN EMBASS Y
A world of achievements
in just 18 years
At Berkeley, Ritankar Das helped manage a $1.7 billion
budget as an academic senator, founded the Berkeley
Chemical Review research journal, designed a chemistry
DeCal course, and was a graduate student instructor.
He founded See Your Future, a student-run nonprofit
that presents scientific content to middle and high school
students through in-class demonstrations, videos, inter-
active activities and games.
Ritankar, a published alternative energy researcher
since age 12, has received awards from the major scientif-
ic societies in chemistry, physics, biology, and from the
National Science Foundation. He also analyzed entries
for the Presidential Green Chemistry Award at the
Environmental Protection Agency.
He is currently writing a book on education reform
with contributions from Fortune 50 CEOs, Nobel
Laureates, US cabinet secretaries and university presi-
dents, and is a founding member of the Youth
Ambassador Program at America’s Promise Alliance.
He has won more than 40 awards — totaling more than
$300,000 — including the prestigious Goldwater, Udall,
and Pearson awards, as well as a Congressional
Certificate of Recognition. He has also been inducted into
the Berkeley Wall of Fame, alongside Aaron Rodgers,
Gregory Peck and Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple
with Steve Jobs.
Ritankar has served on advisory boards to State Farm,
City of New Berlin, DoSomething.org and Dell, as well as
on the IJSA journal editorial board.
— Aziz Haniffa
‘We must follow our ideas, even if it sounds crazy or impossible’
Let’s not let fear prevent us from try- ing,’ Ritankar Das told the class of 2013 during his commencement
convocation speech at the University of
California, Berkeley, May 18.
Ritankar, 18, is the youngest student at
Berkeley in a century to earn a bioengineering and chemical biology double major in
just three years.
He also received a university medal, which
is awarded to an exemplary graduating student with a minimum GPA of 3.96. Das graduated with more than 200 credits and a GPA
of 3.99, which includes eight A+ marks.
During his freshman year, he started a journal focused on chemical research conducted
by undergraduates. ‘ This will never work’ was
the response he got from many in the campus. In the first eight months, there were no
submissions, but he continued it with the
help of friends and two professors.
‘Despite the journal’s gloomy outlook we
doubled our effort and in the end received
over 50 submissions, enough to fill not one
but four journals,’ he said. ‘And because we
never gave in, the Berkeley Chemical Review
can be found around the world today.’
He said society tends to put everything into
two boxes: Success or failure.
‘But I believe there is a third box and it’s
called not trying. We must follow our
ideas even if it sounds crazy or impossible,’ he added.
Ritankar’s early interest in energy started
when he was in high school.
pursue a master’s degree in biomedical
engineering with a fully funded Whitaker
Fellowship. He will then continue his
studies at the Massachusetts Institute of
“In the long term,” he said, “I hope to
work towards an area where I help people
achieve their full potential. I am not sure
how that will happen, but as long as I can
work on that, I’ll be happy.”