When 18-year-old Sataparna Mukherjee appeared in her school leaving exam on Monday, she was ‘slightly tenser’ than she had been before. After being one of five to be selected by the prestigious Goddard Internship Programme of Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), she is starting to feel the pressure.
Regardless of her performance in the ISC exams, she will be going this August to Oxford University and complete her graduation, post-graduation and doctoral thesis as Nasa faculty. All her expenses, including food and lodging, will be covered by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).
Mukherjee is confident when speaking about her goal – to help change how people and society think, and to promote a scientific rationale.
“I have chosen English and science as my subjects. The languages of both help expressing and interpreting observations. And that is all what I want. Getting high salaried jobs had never been my on my agenda,” she says.
“I want to change the thinking pattern of man. I’m confident science and literature will help me do so,” she told HT prior to leaving for her exams.
The daughter of a primary schoolteacher and a student of St. Jude’s School in Madhyamgram, about 30 kilometers from Kolkata, Mukherjee had neither a computer nor a private tutor to help her pursue her passion for science.
Mukherjee is one of the many beneficiaries of Barang, a group which offers free tuition to schoolchildren in economically deprived areas.
Her father, Pradip Mukherjee, is well known in West Bengal for being one of the leaders of the Kamduni Pratibadi Mancha - a forum created to demand justice for a Barasat Derozio College student who was gangraped and murdered in Kamduni village. She had been his student.
“She had always been an inspiration for me. When our forum came under threat from ruling party, many people told me to delink myself from the movement. But my daughter kept telling me that I should not stop protesting and that the victim was not only my student but also a daughter,” Mukherjee said.
Sataparna’s big break came after she posted her observations about the Black Hole Theory on Nasa’s website, catching the eye of scientists.
“She was offered a scholarship last August but we could not accept the offer as we would have had to pay for her food and living expenses there. In October, Nasa said they were ready to bear all her expenses,” he beamed.