Teenager Taking the Biochar World By Storm!

Our youngest presenter, Meghana Rao, age 17, already has quite an impressive resume. Meghana hails from Portland Oregon and was introduced to the world of biochar more than three years ago by Tom Miles and John Meidema, both of whom are also presenting at the Symposium. Based on winning the Young Naturalist Award when she was a sophomore in high school, Meghana was asked to go to the White House earlier this year with about 100 other winners of various prestigious science awards. Only twelve students actually got to speak to President Obama about their experiments and Meghana was the very first! She described it as a “crazy experience but I felt pretty lucky to speak to him”.  Apparently the President asked about biochar applications and was very supportive and encouraging. Earlier in the day Bill Nye, the Science Guy and one of her inspirations in Middle School, spent time chatting with her as well. Other exhibitors covered solar panels, cancer research, nano particles, robots, sewage treatment but not too many of her fellow scientists had even heard of biochar.

Besides biochar research Meghana founded and chairs a non-profit organization called Portland Junior Scientists which now includes more than 40 high school students that voluntarily run four different after school science programs at under-privileged elementary schools which recently had their science program funding gutted. The students teach everything from conductivity, building circuits, building water filtration systems, to rockets and, no doubt there is a little bit of biochar thrown in at some point! Funding for the program has stepped up from her own pockets to winning different grants (e.g. Pepsi Refresh and Case Foundation). If you would like to find out more about her organization or even help with funding check out their website here: http://www.portlandjuniorscientists.org/

Meghana will be talking about her work using biochar within microbial fuel cells as a replacement for rare earth metals. She has previously presented at the Asia Pacific Biochar Conference as well as at the Sonoma Conference in 2012. She is looking forward to learning what other biochar research is going on and connecting with other biochar enthusiasts. All this while preparing for college admissions ... with a resume like hers, any college would be lucky to have her!