Ritankar Das ’13

Little did Das know as a pre-teen that his makeshift experiments using kitchen gadgets would lead to becoming Berkeley’s University Medalist — the top graduating senior — a few years later. Now 18, Das founded an undergraduate research journal, wrote and taught poetry, and brought science to underserved middle and high school students, among a whirlwind of successes that earned him more than 40 awards. A double major in bioengineering and chemical biology and a minor in creative writing, he is the youngest medalist in at least a century. “In my 30 years at Berkeley, I cannot think of a single undergraduate student who would match Ritankar’s accomplishments,” wrote chemistry professor Marcin Majda. Headed to the University of Oxford and MIT for his master’s and Ph.D., Das spoke at the Class of 2013 commencement. He said society tends to put everything into boxes labeled “success or failure. But I believe there’s a third box, and it’s called ‘not trying.’ … We must follow our ideas, even if they sound crazy or impossible.”

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