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entrepreneurship to scientific research

“Anything is Possible”: My Journey from LaunchX at MIT to ISEF

By Devanshi Udeshi

October 17, 2018

The summer of 2016 changed my perspective of life. The LaunchX entrepreneurship program taught me not just how to start a company, but allowed me to build my problem solving skills and a mindset of resiliency and that I’ve taken to all other areas of my life, including scientific research.

When I first received my acceptance letter from LaunchX (then, MIT Launch), I had never imagined the experience would be so life-altering. This was my first time away from home, and I had no idea what to expect.

Prior to LaunchX, I used to be someone who would wait for opportunities to come knocking on my door, instead of being proactive and seeking them out. Although I had always been a strong student in school, I had never really thought that I had the capability to make a difference in the world. LaunchX taught me to believe; to believe in myself and believe in others. The experience of working tireless nights to create something meaningful with a team of extremely talented peers taught me that I could achieve almost anything if only I put my heart and mind to it. It gave me the extra push that I needed to put myself out there in the world and try to do things that nobody has done before.

During LaunchX at MIT, I co-founded Glassknit, an online platform for high school students in underserved communities. Our platform provided guidance in selecting the right college by providing users with a network of student mentors at colleges of particular interest to them. I grew tremendously from the experience of building this company and immediately yearned for more. This was when I decided to pursue scientific research.

One thing that I realized immediately was that research and entrepreneurship are not all that different from each other. In fact, in order for an entrepreneur to be successful throughout the entrepreneurial process, there must be some degree of practical work that is done behind the scenes. As a high school student, my journey to pursue research did not exactly get off to the best start. I was rejected from several labs and research programs before I finally received an invitation to meet with a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine. I was ecstatic when I received the lab position and could not wait to get started!

Since I wasn’t able to drive at the time, I begged my mother to drive me to downtown Houston almost everyday after school. It wasn’t long before I discovered that one does not make breakthroughs in a day. In my case, it took months before I even saw results in my own experiments and had to repeat experiments on several occasions. At times, I felt overwhelmed and considered giving up, but then realized that if I lost sight of my goals now, I would be losing the opportunity to take initiative and make a difference. I had felt the same way while working on my startup at LaunchX, but I was determined not to quit what I had intended to see through to the finish line.

After months of pure blood, sweat, and tears, I was finally ready to submit my work to the Science & Engineering Fair. To my surprise, I placed in the top of my division at the regional and state science fairs and was named a finalist at the 2017 Intel International Science Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles, CA. The ISEF experience was very rewarding—I had the opportunity to meet like-minded student scientists from all over the world and even meet Nobel Laureates and successful entrepreneurs. Even though I felt accomplished, this was by no means an end. If anything, I was determined more than ever to prove to the world that “Anything is possible with hard work, drive, passion, and a clear vision.”

This past summer I continued my research at the Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, studying stress conditions in breast cancer cell lines. Spending another summer in Boston meant that I also had the opportunity to serve as a Mock Board mentor for this year’s LaunchX students and judge final presentations. I personally found this experience as a mentor to be extremely rewarding as I was able to provide the students with guidance and advice that I wish I had during my time as an MIT Launch student.

One thing is for sure, with the “anything is possible” mindset, no challenge that life throws at you is insurmountable.