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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Jun. 24, 2013 5 years ago

Local student chosen as one of 19 in the country for Israeli science camp

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Recognized for her accomplishments in cancer research, Rumya Raghavan will take a summer trip to Israel, to study science.

BY WAYNE GRANT | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Rumya Raghavan, a 17-year-old student from Ormond Beach, has been fascinated by science most of her life.

“I started in grade school, just doing little experiments in the living room,” she said.

Her interest became more focused in high school when her grandmother, who she was very close to, died of cancer.

It's in that field where Rumya's flair for science caught national attention.

Her experiments and presentations on cancer research in high school won state and national competitions. She was one of only 25 students in Florida selected to take part in the University of Florida’s Junior Science Engineering and Humanities Symposium. She was also invited to make a presentation at the Boston Academy of Science.

“Cancer is so enigmatic and interesting,” Rumya said. “It’s a good feeling when you are doing research, because your work might lead to a cure.”

Rumya also stayed busy during summer vacations. She volunteered at the MD Anderson Cancer Research Institute, in Orlando, and has also conducted research at the University of Florida, as a volunteer. At both places, her research involved the effect various drugs have on breast and pancreatic cancer.

She has now received another major recognition for her accomplishments. She has been accepted to work with scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, a leading center for scientific research, in a four-week program starting July 1.

The Weizmann Institute has 2,700 scientists, students and support staff. Rumya was one of only 19 students in the United States chosen for the program out of 40 applicants, and she will work on research projects with world-renowned scientists.

The entire trip, including travel, will be funded by the institute.

Samantha Bruno, spokeswoman for the institute, said Rumya stood out from other candidates because she had already conducted research and showed initiative.

“I think one reason Rumya was chosen is because of her obvious passion for science,” Bruno said.

Rumya just graduated from Spruce Creek High School and plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, which she hopes will lead to a career in cancer research.

One of her teachers and mentors, Dr. Andrea White, said Rumya was selected at MIT before Christmas, which was especially impressive since “they take the best early.”

White, who taught Rumya in the International Baccalaureate program at Spruce Creek, said Rumya is self-motivated, enjoys challenges and is able to maintain a busy schedule.

“It’s one thing to maintain an A average, as she always did, but it’s all the other things she did that make her unique,” White said.

In high school, Rumya organized a science bowl team and was president of the math team, which held competitions and offered tutoring. She also plays tennis, and was service chair for the National Honor Society, where she ran charity drives.

“I love to travel and see new places and cultures, and have new experiences,” she said. In the last week of the summer trip, she and the other students will get to travel Israel and see the sights.

As expected, Rumya's mother, Jayathi, said the family is proud of Rumya for being accepted at the institute. But they're also a little nervous.

“This is her first international trip alone,” she said.

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