TIME magazine’s first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’, 15-year-old Indian-American scientist Gitanjali Rao, said she is brainstorming about solutions for the effective vaccine distribution to address a pressing challenge that confronts the world grappling with the deadly COVID-19 and has set her sights on preventing future pandemics.
Rao, who was named by TIME as the first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’ for her “astonishing work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying,” said in an interview with PTI that she was focused on using technological tools to offer solutions for vaccine distribution.
“I definitely do want to look at the pandemic. The next biggest problem we’re going to face is vaccine distribution and prioritisation. So, I’m looking at how we can use predictive analytics and data models in order to create a plan of how vaccine distribution will roll out,” Rao said. She says she is still at a “brainstorming and observing” phase but is looking at the whole idea of vaccine distribution and how widespread it needs to be.
Rao said it was very “exciting” to be named Kid of the Year “but more than that it’s honoring and humbling to be that face of Generation Z as well as have the opportunity to be featured on the cover of TIME among so many other fantastic people. I’m so beyond humbled and I’m just excited to see where this keeps going”.
Rao says she is interested in working on several things in the future and wants to look at genetic research with product design involved. “Hopefully whatever I’m doing, I’m changing the world for the better,” she said. For Rao, her own passion right now is working on solutions for the contamination of natural resources.
“I’m looking at water contamination specifically and water parasitic contamination is the biggest problem that I’m seeing out there today. I really want to find a way to prevent that from happening,” she said, adding that she is using genetically engineered microbes to detect parasites in water. “I’m using living things to find living things which I think is a very interesting concept,” she said. Rao has also been working tirelessly on creating a community of innovators and has so far mentored thousands of students. She runs workshops for students from across the globe who want to become innovators and solve global problems. “Everyone comes out of that workshop with one solution and a process that they can take to implement it in the real world. If I can do it, you can do it and anyone can do it,” she says.