“I learned that one-sixth of the population (of the globe)
lacks access to clean water. We wanted to help these people.
Which is why we got into water purification,” she said.
The problem clearly was not the dearth of water, only that
of the potable kind. And the usual answer, for a long time,
has been to find new sources — until those are depleted or
Deepika’s solution, though, does not directly invoke subtle
diplomacy or getting into battle gear, merely two widely-used nontoxic pigments and sunscreens — titanium dioxide
and zinc oxide — each of which retails at about a dollar per
ounce, and the power of the sun, which, last heard, still
Her model improves on something already out there, and
is a technological solution: Get water cleaned fast, and at a
price affordable to almost everybody.
A technological solution was a natural to Deepika, who
was always interested in science and math. Her family
encouraged her — and her younger sister Anjali, now 11 —
to learn more about the world about them.
“Whenever I’m studying or doing research, they tell me to
keep going,” the now 15 year old said.
For scientific and mathematical problems, Deepika went
to her father Pradeep, a chemical engineer and a professor
of civil and environmental engineering at the University of
Her current interests lie more in biology than in physics
and math, which means dad cannot help much.
“I resort to (help from) books and the Internet to get
knowledge,” she said. “Nowadays... I pretty much do every-
thing by myself.”
As she worked at the problem, she said, sister Anjali, then
10, provided the hugs she said she drew much sustenance
from, and mother Meena provided her own mix of comfort
and common sense.
“Mom is always very supportive and (ensures) that I’m not
stressed too much, sit in my room and study too much. She
makes sure I have fun in life.”
‘Fun’ means hanging out with friends
Rebecca Berube and Sophia Jordan
among others, and going to the movies.
And for times Deepika felt feisty, there
was martial arts, which she has been at
since she was 5. She has a black belt in
Shaolin temple kung fu and taekwondo.
For a more mellow mood, she relied on
the clarinet and the saxophone, at least
in middle school, where she was also
president of the music honors society.
She did learn Carnatic music too, until
her schedule got overwhelming.
Deepika always had an interest in the
sciences, which has been of much help.
“In my family, education is very impor-
tant... Also, I like math. So, my parents
encouraged me to enter different math
competitions, which I’ve won.”
In fact, in the eighth grade at the
Fairgrounds Middle School in Nashua,
she captained the MathCounts team to
first place in New Hampshire.
She has also been participating in the
The Young Scientist
COUR TES Y: THE KURUPS
Deepika Kurup was a fast learner, talking at 18 months and reading by age 3.
Her family ensures she has fun too, with martial arts, below, and travelling, above.
contests organized by the North South Foundation since she
was in fourth grade, including the math, science vocabulary
essay-writing and public speaking bees.
In 2012, she ranked in the science, vocabulary, essay-writing and public speaking bees.
Deepika has stuck with the career resolve she made last
“I want to be a neurologist because I’m really interested in
the brain and how it works,” she said. “Human beings are
always learning what’s around us. In reality, it’s the brain
that’s teaching us, and it’s changing in order for us to absorb
more knowledge. So, I want to do more in-depth research
into the brain.”
She seems particularly focused on psychopathologies like
Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy.
“Perhaps when I get older I’d try to find a cure for all of
these,” she said, with no trace of hubris.
She found high school very supportive, particularly chem-
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