A Saguaro High School graduate is close to finishing a triple major in mathematics, molecular and cellular biology, and in biochemistry and molecular biophysics. All that, with honors.
Ajit Divakaruni, a straight-A student from Scottsdale, has studied at Cambridge University in England and at Yale, where he was the only undergraduate researcher allowed to study with Ph.D and postdoctoral students.
Last week, Divakaruni learned he won the prestigious Marshall scholarship — an honor given to just 40 outstanding students across the country to cover two years of study in England.
Despite these academic achievements, the 22-year-old still feels like he has a lot to learn.
"I look at myself as being really young and still naive," said Divakaruni, in his last year as an undergraduate at the University of Arizona. "Relative for my age, I still feel like there’s so much farther for me to go."
Professors have taken notice of Divakaruni’s zeal for learning.
"It was clear when he walked through the door as an incoming freshman that he was uncommon," said Tom Baldwin, the UA head of biochemistry.
Baldwin loves uncommon students. His undergraduate department is full of them. He said it takes a certain kind of student to be successful in biochemistry, and Divakaruni is precisely that.
Divakaruni is learning to use mathematical equations to explain how proteins in the human body work and affect metabolism — the way the body processes food.
He doesn’t like to think of himself as the next Einstein or Nobel laureate.
He said he only wants to understand how proteins work so that other scientists can come up with new drugs and therapies for treating diabetes and obesity.
He plans to use the Marshall scholarship to cover his graduate studies at Cambridge, where he hopes to obtain a Ph.D and continue his work studying proteins.