(April 30, 2022) Nothing deters Dhwani Vani. Quantum physics, blackholes or the relationship between space and time – If a subject fills her with trepidation, she dives headlong into research to grasp it, or asks her mentors. The 16-year-old Nasa and Cern citizen scientist has worked with PhD graduates at Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CRNS), France, and is the first to admit that she understood only 40 percent of the programme, yet the immense learning is what she carries into the multitudes of tasks ahead. So much so that the cute bespectacled girl has little time to sleep!
Research is her go-to. The student of cosmology, ufoology, astrochemistry, archeo-astronomy and founder of One.Tree India, the global change maker’s passion shines amidst adult scientists. “To be taken seriously one has to show commitment,” and this makes her dive into seemingly complex subjects with knowledge that’s pretty admirable. Her areas of interest Earth restoration, Mars civilisation, and time travel apart, Dhwani inspires others to step up and solve problems.
“I will be visiting Bangkok to represent India as a delegate at the Global Youth Parliament in June 2022 ,” says Dhwani in an interview with Global Indian.
Her brilliance belies her age. “CNRS, France was scary, challenging and demanding. But I learned a valuable lesson – asking and being open to learning. Even though I only got 40 percent of what was done in the programme, I gained mentors and friends,” says Dhwani of the July 2021 apprenticeship. Thankful that being a 16-year-old with initiative draws people to help her, she wants people to, “see beyond my age to my knowledge.”
What they did is complicated, and she explains, “We used parts of the Orion-B data to estimate the total mass of the molecular cloud compared to the dust emission. It helped us grasp the different regions and their conditions for extra galactic observations.”
A Nashik girl who reached for the stars
Having parents with a scientific mindset has been a huge plus for Dhwani. “Unquestionably, my mother is the backbone of my passion as she also fancies this domain,” says Dhwani of her mother Rupali Vani, a doctor, with a clinic that has been running for 25 years, and her father Inderjit Singh who works with her.
The girl from Nashik who signed up for a Nasa Citizen Scientist conference on a whim and became a citizen scientist says, “Through citizen science, people share and contribute to data monitoring and collection programmes. It is a powerful tool to provide students with the skills to excel in stem subjects, and to gain hands-on experience conducting real scientific projects.”
It enthused the girl scientist enough to be wide-eyed and awake at 3 am working on gathering evidence – Today, she has contributed 149 cobblestones (computations of data) (129.07 trillion floating-point operations) to LHC, and has set herself the 500 cobblestones mark by next month-end.
Sleep be damned when cutting-edge subject matter is so much more beguiling, right? “If I am truly honest, I won’t recommend anyone doing the amount of work I do. At least two days a week, I am sleep-deprived, and on a coffee-buzz,” says the teen researcher, sustainability leader, youth empowering mentor, and girl-child mentor. What’s credible is that she began these endeavours just three years ago.
Having written many articles – on space debris, death of the International Space Station, she is currently working on three research papers, one to be presented at a Cern competition, based on the concepts and understanding of particle and quantum physics.
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Infact, her research paper on habitable zones and host stars with the Society for Space Education, Research and Development, was presented at Sagan Workshop by Nasa. It’s a topic that fascinates Dhwani as she “hopes to find evidence of another planet that demonstrates signs of life,” completely transfixed with the existentialist question, “Are we alone?” “The habitable zone is the area around a star which is not too hot or cold for liquid water to exist on the surface. Host stars are stars around which a particular planet, brown dwarf, or lesser object revolves,” pipes the Nasa citizen scientist whose ever questioning nature unearths much learning.
Getting a bronze honour at the international astronomy and astrophysics competition, Dhwani was also an interstellar traveller on the Mars Mission India as well.
The activist student
There is an activist in this committed student too. As a WHO volunteer at a hearing week recently, she aided in helping 100 people get impacted. Treasurer at her school’s interact club – the group donated books, pens and shoes to an underprivileged school. Yet, it’s her work as founder of a youth-empowering organisation one.step that sees her guide peers on internships, CVs, etc.
She began One.tree.India inspired by One.tree, to spread sustainability goals – always proactive, Dhwani mailed the parent organisation on opening a separate branch for India. Soon she was on her way. She then started One.Step, “where we hope to help passionate learners get proper guidance on what they can do to shine in their field at a young age.”
Research, research, research
Dhwani began researching at 14, and got her first diploma in cosmology with 92 percent marks at 15. “I see myself as a researcher who travels the world to understand its connection to the universe,” says the teen deep thinker.
Looking at the sky, many just gaze at the twinkly beyond in wonder, Dhwani looks further. Fascinated by the moon mingled with the smell of the ocean, she has a sporty side too. “I love sports, and am also very adventurous,” says the girl who won gold medals in shotput till 10th, did karate and is now a blue belt. Yet, that’s not all. She also played three years of football, two years of basketball… and in her words “much more,” sports as well. Paucity of time has stopped all that now, but she is determined to get back. Representing her school at the international sports school organisation and the Mumbai Games powered by FIT India, she packs so much in a life that is just finding her ground. What helps? Self-development books. She feels everyone has the space to excel. “Space is a resource and we are creating issues by putting all our junk in orbit. This is leading to exponential rates of space debris that has to led to millions of dollars worth of damage,” she declares comparing the human mind, and the problem of debris in outer space.
Busy as a bee
Physics and astronomy aside, Dhwani loves cooking with family. “After seeing what I have done, the smiles I created, and the visionary youth that were empowered – it keeps me inspired to do more,” says the girl who just started her A levels at Fravashi International Academy in mathematics, physics, chemistry, general English, and IT. Her sights are now set on an astronomy degree from the University of British Columbia.
The girl who is lucky to hit the pillow and almost instantly fall asleep is teased mercilessly about that, and her internal alarm clock that makes her wake up without one! “They often say that I have installed a clock in my brain,” she giggles, already prepping for a talk on mentoring other students, and the search for life in galaxies far far away.