Nitya Rajan, the winner of the Science Olympiad in Philosophy in 2021, is also the president of a humanitarian aid and ecology association and pursues Bharatanatyam and Judo as a hobby. This multi-faceted teenager, who has a whole life still ahead of her, dreams of bringing innovation in healthcare and making it equitable. Gayatri Muthukrishnan tells us more.

Nitya Rajan moved from India to Switzerland as a young girl. Today, after 8 years, she is finishing her high school in the Collège St. Michel, a public school in Fribourg. She has specialized in Physics and Mathematics and intends on pursuing Computer science at the university.

Winning the Science Olympiad

In March 2021, Nitya decided to participate in the Science Olympiad in Switzerland in the Philosophy category. She claims that though this is not her strongest subject in school, philosophy is a subject she finds interesting. Due to the influence of her parents, she has been an avid reader of philosophy, specifically Indian philosophy. When she came across the Science Olympiad which has nine categories, she was first considering taking part in Biology. But out of curiosity and inspired by the quote she had to work on for her entry essay in the Philosophy category, she changed her mind.

The competition started with 146 participants and after 2 rounds of essay writing, 12 of them reached the finals. Based on the final essay entry, the Science Olympiad declared 2 winners.

Nitya was judged as one of the winners and her gold medal-winning essay was based on the quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein – “If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty.” She thoughtfully concluded her essay by agreeing with the quote and further explained the complex issues and contradictions within the concept. “I was really amazed, and also really happy when I won, I didn’t expect it at all.” Her interest and hard work surely paid off. The two winners represented Switzerland for the International Olympiads at the end of May 2021 and Nitya received an honorable mention for her submission.

Champion for humanitarian and sustainable ecological causes

Nitya, other than being interested in pursuing science and having won a philosophy competition, is the co-president of Macrocosm, an association in the field of humanitarian aid and ecology in College St. Michel. Explaining the activities of Macrocosm, Nitya says “Macrocosm is a 30-year-old student-run organization. We fundraise for third-party associations and do other projects to promote the sensitization of ecological and humanitarian issues. We have changed certain things within our school and city to make us more ecofriendly. We have projects on multiple layers.”

One of the projects on sustainability called ‘Bring your Box’, was in collaboration with the town of Fribourg. The people of the town are encouraged to carry their own boxes for take-aways and leftover food when dining in. Nitya passionately talks about the numerous benefits of this project like less use of plastic and less food wastage.  She explains that it also benefits restaurants as they save money on disposable plastic and need not worry about food disposal. Macrocosm works on sensitizing both the restaurants and customers. Restaurants in Fribourg that support the ‘Bring your Box’ program have stickers to indicate the same.
Nitya believes that taking the responsibility as President has helped her step up into a leadership role and learn more about what it takes to be in the position.  Apart from being a champion for sustainability, Nitya spends time on her other interests – dancing Bharatanatyam and Judo.

Future in science

Coming back to her education and career, Nitya says her interest in science began at a young age when her father showed and discussed with her chemistry and physics videos and breakthroughs. Due to these interactions, she decided to pursue science early on. Ambitions of her future come with a social cause. She would like “to create innovations in the healthcare space, to improve healthcare around the world and make solutions that are optimal even in developing nations.”

Girls in Science

Nitya recognizes that there is a societal bias against girls in science that she has experienced herself. However, according to her, since there is no truth to the bias, she does not pay heed to it. Instead, she strongly believes in following her heart and passion and striding along. She uses an example from her experience to exemplify her point – in school, her grades in Philosophy are poor even though she is interested in it and finds it logical. Despite this, when it came to participating in the Olympiad, the philosophy entrance intrigued her enough to pursue it instead of letting society (in this case school) determine what she is good at. She came out with flying colors. Her advice to young girls is “Do not let society judge you and determine what you should dream.  Just follow your heart.”

Life in Switzerland

Nitya finds the big advantage of living here is the Swiss educational system which is very good and recognized around the world. She finds the system to be kinder on the students especially compared to the system in India which puts more pressure. However, here she misses the friendly, open and spontaneous camaraderie among students that is there in India.  She finds India is charming because of its many imperfections which contrast with Switzerland where “everything is impeccable, making the system feel a little rigid and cold”.
As we wish this talented and bubbly girl the best for her next phase of life at the university, We hope more girls and boys are inspired by her and follow whatever interests them with the right attitude and passion!

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