Reaching for the stars

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He sent his data to Morton, who used it in his analysis. “If he hadn’t been there that summer, I probably would have spent several weeks of my time doing what he ended up doing,” said Morton, who has since graduated from Caltech and is now an associate research scholar in Princeton University’s astrophysics department. Morton added that Ganesh’s program even detected some errors in Robo-AO’s data.

After doing biology research at Long Island University during his sophomore and junior years, Ganesh began looking for other opportunities. He read a paper published by Morton online, and emailed him in the spring of 2012, asking him about his work. A few weeks later, Morton said, Ganesh contacted him again, asking if he could help.

He did not know much about astronomy at first, he said, but learned fast. “He’s extremely self-motivated, extremely independent,” said Erika Rotolo, a biology, research and genetics teacher at Clarke who became Ganesh’s mentor. “Ganesh becomes immersed in a topic that he finds interesting.”

He said he spent hours each day working on the program. “I just couldn’t stop,” he said. “Working on the [graphical user interface] was probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done.”

Born in India, Ganesh and his family moved to the U.S. when he was 9 months old. His father, Ravichandran Krishnaswany, is a software engineer at the New York Institute of Technology and a former aerospace engineer. “That’s what got me interested in science,” he said.

Ganesh is the editor and chief of the Vanguard, Clarke’s school newspaper, and is currently working with the school district to design a website for the publication. Though he has been accepted by the University of Chicago, he said he is still undecided where he will attend college. Asked about his future, he said, “I know I want to do science for the rest of my life, but I don’t know what profession.”

He is Clarke’s first Intel semifinalist since 2007, when Natalie Cameron was named a national finalist. But Ganesh said he is not worried about following in Cameron’s footsteps to national honors. “I’m really happy either way,” he said. “I’m glad I did the research. I think that’s the most important thing.”

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