Two years ago, when Neha Sharma read about the debate over banning tobacco in the country, she got thinking.
“Since it’s an important cash crop of India, I started thinking of ways in which it could be beneficial,” said the 18-year-old. “And tobacco leaves stains on clothes.”
Sharma started working on preparing natural colorants from tobacco for dyeing of cotton textiles. She submitted her research paper last October along with 228 proposals from across the country. On September 26, Sharma won the second prize in Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Diamond Jubilee Innovation Award for School Children 2009 — her fourth consecutive since she was in Class 9. No first prize was given in this category.
Sharma is pursuing her first year in mechanical engineering from Cummins College of Engineering, Pune. Her previous three awards in the same category were in Class 9 and 10 as a student at Fr Agnel School, Vashi and in Class 11 at Swami Vivekanand Junior College, Chembur. The Delhi-based council has filed patents for all her innovations. “It’s become a habit to receive the award now," she said over the phone. “More than that it was fun meeting and interacting with scientists.”
“She is a fantastic student,” said Dina Gole, principal of Swami Vivekanand School and Junior college. “Coming from a family that is science-oriented, her knowledge of science is thorough.”
Born to a biologist father and a physicist mother, Sharma said it was only natural that her family is her inspiration. On her role models, she said: “No one. I am individualistic and self-driven.”
Apart from playing chess and watching sci-fi movies in her free time, Sharma reads journals and fun books titled Horrible Science Series. Now that she is pursuing engineering, will innovation take a backseat? “Not at all. I already have a thought and have started working on it,” said Sharma.
Her take on innovations from India is strong. “India has had so many geniuses. But the international community has been patenting our products,” she said. “It’s time we innovate because it will play an important role in the country’s development.”