MIT freshman honored by Smithsonian with American Ingenuity Award

Saumil Bandyopadhyay is just 18 years old.

By Deepak Chitnis

The Smithsonian Magazine announced that Saumil Bandyopadhyay, an 18 year-old freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is one of their ten selections for the second annual American Ingenuity Awards.

Bandyopadhyay was selected last month for his work in developing and creating an infrared radiation detector, which he says could be incredibly useful for both civilian and security purposes. Bandyopadhyay did most of the work in researching and building the technology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, and took him the better part of two years to develop.

His research caught the attention of not only the Smithsonian Institute, which produces the Smithsonian Magazine, but other researchers in the field as well. Bandyopadhyay was invited to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center after Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist John Mather saw the infrared device at the Intel Science Fair earlier this year.

The infrared detection device has even piqued the curiosity of the US Army, since it could potentially be used for stealth purposes on planes and drones.

In the Smithsonian Magazine article, which can be read here, VCU professor Dr. Gary Tepper says he was amazed at how much Bandyopadhyay knew and how quickly he could learn while Tepper was mentoring him during his research phase at the university.

“We have high-school students in the lab all the time, but we don’t usually see doctoral-level research,” said Tepper.

Bandyopadhyay is something of a sci-tech wunderkind, having already published give peer-reviewed scientific papers. The Smithsonian Magazine article announcing Bandyopadhyay’s selection for the Ingenuity Award jokes that despite having accomplished all this at such a young age, he still didn’t even have a driver’s license until just before college.

Bandyopadhyay is no stranger to winning prizes in science competitions. He has amassed thousands of dollars in scholarship money from winning competitions around the country, and was on his high school’s QuizBowl team, in which high schools from around the local area compete against each other in a trivia-type game.

Hands-on scientific work runs in the family for Bandyopadhyay; his father, Supriyo, is an electrical engineer. Bandyopadhyay’s father and mother, Anu, live in Glen Allen, Virginia, less than half an hour north of Richmond. Bandyopadhyay has not yet said what his major at MIT will be.

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