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12-Year-Old Rutgers Summer Scholar Pursues Cancer Research

March 24, 2020
Young student in lab

By Mike Raynes

Middle schooler uses computational analysis to identify gene mutation patterns in primary tumors that can predict recurrence and metastasis.

Most 12-year-old middle school students spend their summers engaged in the pursuit of leisure and ice cream. However, for Edison seventh grader Atharva Kulkarni, apart from ice cream, water parks and beaches, summer is a time to continue his passion – cancer research – while also attending a three-week Rutgers Summer Scholars Program in New Brunswick. Of the 145 students in the program, the majority are high school juniors and seniors.

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UPDATE--05/14/2020: Atharva has continued to develop his interest in cancer research and computational data analysis. He recently participated in the  BOLD (BioCONECT Oncology Leadership Development) Initiative at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. He has also been selected to participate in a five-month internship starting this summer for a tech startup accelerator. The Summer Scholars program opened his eyes to a number of possible careers in research, medicine, and more. According to his father, it "broadened his horizons" and made him realize "how far he can go." Atharva is currently waiting for a response to his proposal in a COVID challenge, where he worked on finding a solution to this unprecedented pandemic. 

Atharva continues to maintain a broad array of interests. He is a dedicated musician, and along with his participation in classical Indian vocal performance, he has begun learning to play a traditional Indian instrument called the Tabla. He also is in biology and ThinSat clubs and on a competitive neuroscience team called Brain Bee. He credits the Summer Scholars program with sparking a love and passion for cancer research that he looks forward to pursuing further.