Inventing a technology that betters the lives of people in poor nations is a rare deed.
Even rarer, is inventing such a thing before hitting puberty.
But for Reading Eagle’s Berks’ Best 2022 winner in mathematics Nikita Patel, turning PVC pipe into a patented water filtration system is one of many truly outstanding achievements.
At around age 11, Patel got her first patent for an aquaponics kit, which she said grows plants and purifies water in areas where earthquakes ruin farms and water is scarce.
“One of my lifelong goals is to provide the 884 million people with no source of water a supply of water they can rely on,” Patel said.
To further that goal, Patel founded a nonprofit, Endless Food Growth Inc., which mass produces and distributes her kits in Haiti and Jamaica.
Patel’s inventive skill is fueled by a drive to master the formulas that dictate the universe’s laws and use that knowledge to help people.
“Math is really all around us in everything we do. Math is, in a way, the building blocks of our lives, from mobile device software to architecture,” Patel said. “What gets me most excited about math is that it’s infinite, it will never stop being discovered.”
A thirst for discovery enthralled Patel as early as age 5, when she remembers taking apart her family’s broken coffee machine to understand the mechanisms behind it.
“I was really just always an inventor,” Patel said. “I always liked to learn how things worked, and how I could create a difference in other people’s lives by using the innate ability I have to come up with solutions.”
Patel said her inventive process involves taking mental snapshots, then rapidly flipping through images of past observations in her head.
“The flipping of mental pictures becomes faster, the images begin to blend together into new shapes,” Patel said. “Sparks in my brain ignite, flow together and eventually contrive a new invention.”
In first and second grade math classes, Patel solved every problem assigned quickly — so quickly that she often found her mind wandering while her classmates caught up.
“I’d try to find math problems around me, like the fan in the room: it’s revolving at this rate, how fast would it have to go to cool off a room twice the size of this one?” Patel said. “Math brought out a sense of adventure and curiosity in me.”
As an eighth grader, Patel was already taking AP Calculus classes beside juniors and seniors at Wilson High School.
By her freshman year, she had completed the entire mathematics curriculum.
Patel went on to serve as a teacher’s aide in Wilson’s AP calculus classes, take a multivariable calculus course at Albright and research her newest invention, a needle-less drug delivery system that can serve as a painless form of chemotherapy.
She has already patented the system — which she said uses a new type of nanotechnology to deliver drugs through the skin — and is in talks with Johnson & Johnson to have the product developed for mass use.
Patel, 16, will graduate high school two years early this June.
In the future, Patel hopes to expand her aquaponics nonprofit and create a startup company to globalize her needle-less drug delivery system.
As for next fall, Patel will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which has awarded her a $178,000 merit scholarship to major in biomedical engineering on the pre-med track.
She hopes to work as a vascular surgeon, where she will apply her passion for mathematical modeling and other forms of logical analysis when planning and carrying out procedures.
Patel said she also looks forward to developing lasting relationships with patients and their families as she helps them overcome medical issues.
Patel’s pursuits, varied as they are, share one similarity: They all involve using her ample mathematical talents to benefit people.
“Math is quite literally unstoppable,” Patel said. “Using math to improve the lives of others is what I’ve strived to do all my life and I’m not stopping here.”
Source: Berkshire mont