MIT and the Center for Excellence in Education recognized him as one of the top 80 young scientists in the world at the Research Science Institute (RSI) and he placed internationally in Chemistry and Materials Science four times from 2015-2018 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. He spoke at TEDXYouth, met President Obama at the White House, and the MIT-Lincoln Laboratory even named a planet after him. An extraordinary list of awards and credentials for anyone, but especially impressive considering that Arnob Das has only recently graduated high school.
But if you ask Arnob, he isn’t concerned with scientific awards or even recognition. Instead, he works diligently to help break down the barriers to science for everyone, and he staunchly believes that science is the perfect vehicle for encouraging social justice.
Science: The Great Equalizer
“Science is not an exclusive process. Science is an equalizer. It doesn’t discriminate. It’s a force of unity for people and can reconcile their differences. I was at a conference with the American Chemical Society, a group of older people who have less scope on what young people want. My scientific credibility gave me the platform to propose new issues that normally wouldn’t have made it through their doors. For example, the importance of safe feminine hygiene products, especially for women who don’t have regular access to them.”
Arnob’s interest in issues around health and access to care led him on a groundbreaking path to cancer research. “I’ve worked at domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters. It opened my eyes to what they have to go through daily. I saw part of myself in all those people and saw the damage that diseases can have on such a vulnerable population. I asked myself, how can I help these people?”
Detection is the First Step
When Arnob was 11 years old a close family friend passed away from cancer. It was then that his passion for science emerged. Determined to find a cure for cancer, Arnob picked up an article steeped in scientific vernacular and began to read. When he didn’t understand something, he asked for help and remained persistent in his inquiries. He started to build a plasma lab at home until a professor at Portland State University offered him some space at the school’s lab.
It’s been a long road from there, but Arnob is proud to share that he’s invented, among many things, a provisionally patented low-cost detection for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes.
This system for detecting disease has had enough success to catch the eye of Bill Gates and the Global Good Lab, which he worked with this summer. But if you know Arnob, you know that this isn’t the end of the story. He also hopes that his research will be distributed worldwide and become a low-cost test, as low as two to three cents, available to people from all walks of life.
Finding Time to Volunteer
Arnob’s free time is spent following his humanitarian passions. He founded a chapter of Ankur International, a Portland-based nonprofit and volunteers at Rose Haven, a day shelter and community for women and children. He has also organized and performed piano in Jesuit High School’s annual CCA Idol, where students share their musical talents raising funds for the Children’s Cancer Association (CCA).
“I think CCA Idol is very powerful. The music is all about kids feeling like kids again and sharing joy through music. Seeing people open up through music. Music is a way to have a connection to the world outside yourself, but also an expression of emotions that you can’t communicate any other way.”
A New Vision for the World
If anyone can find the cure to cancer, there’s no doubt that Arnob is on the right track. Today, his vision has expanded and grown into something truly admirable.
“I hope that through science humanity can one day see all people as people. That’s very true to how I want to live my life. Human connection and relations are all that really lasts. If you just sit down and talk with anyone, you realize that we’re all pretty much the same. I envision everyone coming together and loving each other.” – Arnob Das
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