Science and Sensibility: Here's how 20-year-old Arunima Sen is trying to find solutions to life's actual problems

Arunima Sen is only 20 years old and she has already achieved a lot in the field of Science. Most of her collaborative projects with students around the world give solution to real-life problems 
Arunima Sen who has worked on eight different projects with students around the world
Arunima Sen who has worked on eight different projects with students around the world

When Arunima Sen observed her parents discussing and working on various projects for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), her curiosity hit an all-time high. She wanted to know more about the Science they were discussing, especially Physics. That's how she developed an interest in the subject and started working on innovative solutions for global problems using STEM. From measuring micro-nutrients in a person's body using strands of hair to developing a method to save energy in high-rise buildings, the 20-year-old has a solution to every problem in most developing countries. She recalls, "When I was in class X, I was selected for a programme called The Junior Academy conducted by The New York Academy of Sciences. This programme is meant for teenagers who are interested in Science and who intend to work towards finding solutions to different problems. They also host these research and innovation challenges. It is through this community that I started collaborating with students around the world. We have turned out to be good friends and have been working on several projects."

The first project that Arunima worked on with other students was to measure the micronutrients in a person's body. She explains, "It is essential to provide data on the essential health problems in developing countries like India, South Africa and South East Asia. And we believe that micronutrients play an important role when it comes to health. Therefore, we worked on a prototype device called Arduino Pro Mini that gives us the exact measure of micronutrients in the body. We wanted to make this method non-invasive, so what we do is collect strands of hair and dip them in a particular chemical solution. Once the solution absorbs the nutrients from the hair, it is analysed via spectrophotometry. To put it in layman's terms, we measure the wavelength that the nutrients emit using spectrophotometry. By observing these wavelengths, we get to know if there is a deficiency of micro-nutrients or not." 

Another project that Arunima has worked on is the Homestead Green — high-rise buildings that can save energy and lower the emission of carbon. She explains, "I live in a locality where there are frequent power cuts as well as water scarcity. When I did some research on it, I found out that these buildings we live in are not exactly 'green' buildings. They emit a lot of carbon dioxide which, in turn, causes global warming. So, we worked on the prototype of a building that is not only energy efficient but also helps us harvest rainwater for future use. The design is meant for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. One part of the building wall is covered with solar panels that help in trapping a lot of natural energy. We also have automatic lights that turn off or become dim when you leave the room. The building will also have a trellis of vines and climbers that runs down the building. These plants will be watered by the rainwater harvesting system. This helps us save over a thousand litres of water."

Arunima's work has not stopped even during the pandemic. Besides pursuing her under-graduation in Computer Science and Physics from Ashoka University in Delhi, she is working to enhance this skyscraper project. "I am currently being mentored by professionals from Sidewalk Labs — an urban innovation company working to make cities more sustainable and affordable for all. Since the pandemic had brought many discussions and assignments to a halt, my friend and I are working to resume it soon," she concludes. 

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