KARNATAKA

City girl to get minor planet named after her

Sahithi Pingali  

Researching the specks of froth on our polluted lakes has led to a city girl getting her name etched in immortality on the night sky.

Sahithi Pingali, a Class 12 student of Inventure Academy, Bengaluru, joins an elite league of people to have a minor planet in the Milky Way named after them. The honour comes after she excelled in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest pre-college science competition. As one of the 2,000 finalists, Ms. Pingali presented her paper, — “An Innovative Crowdsourcing Approach to Monitoring Freshwater Bodies”— based on her experiences after having developed an integrated mobile phone app and lake monitoring kit that obtains data through crowdsourcing.

It wasn’t just an award at ISEF that she won. The Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which has the right to name minor planets, decided to name a planet after her after she came within the top 3% of ISEF. While the Indian contingent took home 21 awards in all, Ms. Pingali won three special awards and was awarded “overall second place” in the Earth and Environment Sciences category. “I definitely didn’t see this coming. I was expecting one special award at most. I haven’t yet digested the fact that I have a planet named after me,” she told The Hindu.

Currently, she is pursuing an internship at the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Michigan to further improve her method to detect water pollution. “I want to make it more accurate and expand it to detect arsenic,” she said.

Her work on Varthur Lake has already seen her get a Gold Medal at ISWEEEP (The International Sustainable World Engineering Energy Environment Project) Olympiad at Houston (U.S.), earlier this year.