Fremd H.S. senior named U.S. Presidential Scholar after developing algorithm to diagnose malaria
A Fremd High School senior bound for Harvard University in the fall was named Thursday one of only three 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Illinois.
Pavan Venkatesh Pandurangi of Palatine. who plans to major in computer science at Harvard, believes it was his recent work in that field that made him stand out in consideration for the academic honor.
Pavan developed an algorithm that can help diagnose malaria. He thinks the challenges of the independent research required during the pandemic year were recognized as much as the successful outcome.
Had the project occurred any other year, it likely would have been linked to a university and had other supportive connections that would have made the work easier, Pavan said.
He credits Fremd computer science teacher Shannon Denna for helping him establish the connections he did ultimately find, as well as in developing his own home-based lab.
"I knew I wanted to do something health-care based," Pavan said.
He first started working on cancer research, but realized that malaria is a disease more common in countries without many resources and more in need of help. His algorithm is expected to be of immediate assistance in Ugandan treatment camps.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized a total of 161 high school seniors across the country with the honor, which highlights accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields.
"The 2021 Presidential Scholars represent extraordinary achievements for our extraordinary times," Cardona said in a written statement. "I am delighted to join President Biden in saluting these outstanding young people for their achievements, service, character and continued pursuit of excellence. Their examples make me proud and hopeful about the future."
The other Illinois winners hail from Chicago and downstate White Hall.
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 has had two previous U.S. Presidential Scholars -- Meagan Jong of Fremd High School in 2019 and Mengran Liu of Hoffman Estates High School in 2012.
Fremd High School also has seen four other semifinalists in recent years -- Kristina Chen in 2019, Daniel Classon and James Feng in 2016, and Soumyaa Mazumader in 2015.