MAVERICK SCIENCE
  The University of Texas at Arlington College of Science Fall 2010  
Pinaki Bose
Bose Is in his second year at UT Arlington and plans to earn master's and doctoral degrees after completing his undergraduate work.
Aiming for impact

Pinaki Bose plans to use his interests in biochemistry and computers to follow his parents' advice to make the world a better place

By Greg Pederson

     You might say Pinaki Bose thinks big. After all, when your career goals include the eradication of cancer and other deadly diseases, you definitely can’t be accused of setting the bar too low for yourself.
     Bose, 18, who is now in his second year at UT Arlington, plans to utilize his interests in biochemistry and computer science to work as a medicinal chemist, and to help seek cures for diseases such as cancer, which claimed the life of his grandfather earlier this year.
     “I am confident that with hard work and proper education, I can do groundbreaking research in chemistry and biochemistry, which could save millions from untimely deaths,” he wrote in a recent essay.
     Aside from a keen desire to learn and a strong love of science, Bose’s drive to become a biochemist and help combat disease stems from something his father, Animesh, and mother, Prarthana, instilled in him years ago: always strive to make the world a better place and try to do something with your life for the improvement of mankind.
     “My husband, who is a dreamer but who also works toward fulfilling his dreams, gave to Pinaki the precious gift of imagination and told him that information and knowledge are great, but without imagination and a dream, it amounts to nothing,” Prarthana Bose said.   
     Bose has a lot on his plate, but that’s exactly the way he wants it. His interests are so many and so varied that he had a difficult time deciding on a single major.
     After originally applying to the College of Engineering, he changed plans and enrolled in the College of Science as a biochemistry major with a minor in computer science. He is also a member of the Honors College.
     “I had a hard time choosing,” Bose said. “There are lots of things I’m interested in. Finding opportunities to do things I’m interested in is very easy. I’m having to make sure I don’t take on too much stuff.”
     In addition to taking 15 hours of credits last spring, he worked two part-time jobs doing computer programming in campus labs. He also managed to squeeze in lessons for one of his longtime passions, playing the piano.
     Presumably, he finds a few hours to sleep each night.
     Bose, whose middle school and high school awards and accomplishments could fill several pages, is already earning accolades for his work at UT Arlington. Last year as a freshman, he took sophomore-level courses due to the fact that he placed out of so many credits with Advanced Placement (AP) exams in high school. He earned the maximum score (5) on eight AP science and math exams. He maintained a 4.0 grade point average his freshman year and was named as the recipient of the Robert F. Francis Award for Outstanding Sophomore at the College of Science awards ceremony in April. The Francis Award is usually given to the highest-achieving second-year chemistry or biochemistry major, but the award committee made an exception and honored Bose for his extraordinary accomplishments.
     
Pinaki Bose
Bose says his love of science was inspired by his father at an early age.
In addition to organic chemistry, quantitative analysis, calculus and a computer architecture class, Bose took a Differential Equations and Linear Algebra class during the spring – not because it was essential to his degree, but, he said, because “I feel math is both important and fun. I enjoy learning math.”
     “He is an excellent student who always strives to take every opportunity to learn more,” said Jianping Zhu, his differential equations instructor and chair of the Department of Mathematics. “In my class, he did two extra projects to earn honors credits. In addition, Pinaki has a very pleasant personality and is always a pleasure to work with.”
     Bose does research in computational chemistry for Peter Kroll, assistant professor of chemistry.
     “He has a very good mind for science, and he’s interested in many things,” Kroll said. “He has enormous potential.”
     Carter Tiernan, senior lecturer and assistant dean of engineering, taught Bose in an intermediate programming course in the fall of 2009.
“He’s an intriguing young man,” Tiernan said. “He’s a very genuine kid, interested in so many things. He’s not trying to prove anything to anyone else, he’s just eager to do all these things. There’s no doubt he can do anything he puts his mind to.”
     His high level of academic achievement started early. He was moved ahead a year in preschool because the tasks he was given to do were too easy for him. He was doing fifth-grade level math in second grade. He had memorized the periodic table of the elements by the time he entered third grade. In sixth grade at Dunbar Middle School in Fort Worth, his project, “Textbooks of Tomorrow,” was recognized at the district level of the Invention Convention. His concept, several years before e-books became commercially available, was to store classroom texts electronically and use a reader to access them. His motivation? Doing something about all those heavy textbooks middle school kids have to lug around.
     “Pinaki felt bad for his little sister, who he thought wasn’t as strong as he was, and also for all the physically frail middle school kids who had to haul that load of books,” his mother said.
     At age 10, Bose made his television debut on the local Fox TV channel show Good Day to explain his idea.
     As an eighth-grader, Bose was chosen as one of 40 finalists nationwide in the 2004 Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge, selected from over 60,000 regional level Science Fair winners. His project involved designing a low-cost, biodegradable alternative to ordinary plastics, which take up space in landfills, can take decades to break down and are a choking hazard to wildlife.
     Bose’s idea came at a Florida aquarium during a family vacation. He watched as a sea lion tossed a plastic bottle into a recycling bin, and listened as a trainer told the audience the bottle would take over 100 years to degrade. Biodegradable plastics were available, but were very expensive. Bose proposed adding natural or already degradable items such as sawdust to expensive biodegradable plastics to lower the cost. This new material could break down just like biodegradable plastic, but for a much cheaper cost. Bose earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. for a weeklong Scientists’ Challenge. The National Academy of Sciences honored the finalists by naming an asteroid named for each of them. Bose’s asteroid is named Pinakibose (20352).
     In his follow-up project the next year, Bose used other additives such as talcum powder and starch instead of sawdust, again earning a spot as a national finalist in the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge. He continued participating in science fairs throughout high school – first at Dunbar and then at Paschal – winning numerous awards at regional and state science fairs and being named one of 300 national semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search as a senior.
     In addition to his scientific accolades, Bose was a competitive swimmer in high school, regularly placing highly in invitational meets. His piano playing also earned him high rankings in area music competitions, and he was a member of Paschal’s award-winning computer science programming and science UIL teams.
     Bose was born in San Antonio and lived in California for a short time before his family moved to Fort Worth. His parents are natives of India who came to the Unites States so Animesh could continue with advanced research in the area of materials science. Bose credits his father – an accomplished engineer in the field of powder metallurgy – with spurring his interest in science.
     “My dad was always very interested in chemistry, and he tried to teach me things at an early age,” Bose said. “At first, I needed a little push to get into things like science fairs, and my dad gave that to me. I owe so much of my success to him.”
     Bose showed a keen interest in science, math and computers at a very early age and often peppered his father with questions.
     “Animesh was often surprised at the depth of the questions Pinaki posed even when he was in elementary school,” Prarthana Bose said. “Pinaki would often have prolonged discussions with his dad on various scientific questions, and he learned his early science and math skills from his dad.” 
     Bose’s 16-year-old sister, Shree, is a junior at Fort Worth Country Day School. She has the same love of science as her brother and credits him with helping her develop that love.
     “Watching my brother's accomplishments as we've both grown up has definitely inspired me to pursue what I find interesting,” Shree Bose said. “The sense of wonder and curiosity with which he approaches and learns science is an aspect which I have striven to emulate my entire life. His accomplishments as a scientist throughout both high school and, now, college inspire me to work my hardest in my own endeavors.”
     Shree recalled her brother trying to explain the structure of atoms to her when she was eight. He was 10.
     “Even though I couldn't understand anything he was explaining to me at first, he persisted and patiently continued to explain the subject over and over again until I finally understood it,” she said. “Looking back, Pinaki didn't once get frustrated and give up on teaching me. In fact, Pinaki was responsible for building my chemistry foundation through his patient teaching, even though he was only two years older than me.”
     Bose took some classes this summer and also worked on a project in Kroll’s lab, which is likely to lead to publication of his research. He plans to complete his undergraduate degree in three years and then continue his education with master’s and doctoral degrees.
     Then, it’s on to even bigger challenges. Ultimately, Bose wants to do research that combines his interests in chemistry, biology and computer science, possibly in medicinal chemistry. He believes computer modeling could be the key to understanding several complex reactions in organic chemistry and will be critical in the development of new drugs to fight cancer and other killer diseases.
     “Fulfilling my dream of becoming a [computational] medicinal chemist and finding treatments and cures would bring me joy from the knowledge that I have been able to better the lives of others,” Bose said. “It would be an honor to know I helped make a difference.”