Aadith Moorthy Stanford University PhD Student in Material Sciences & Knight-Hennessy Scholar

aadith-moorthyWhen caught in the never-ending marathon of school, we seldom get a chance to take a step back and reflect. But the global lockdown of 2020 has given me ample time to think about my Stanford experiences. I arrived at Stanford in the fall of 2018 to pursue a PhD in Materials Science and little did I know then that my view of the world and myself would shift and grow very dramatically. I came from a very STEM-focused environment from my bachelors at Caltech, and even the first startup I founded, ConserWater, is very focused on using satellites and AI to help farmers use less water.

Thus, for a long time, I thought that science, engineering and math were the pinnacles of knowledge, at least for me. Being at Stanford really opened up what learning means to me in the broadest sense. Despite officially being in engineering, I have taken classes throughout the university from courses as diverse as business to law and doing so has shown me the huge variety of ways in which different people approach the same problems. But more than the hard skills, I have also expanded my learning to the soft skills - storytelling, listening and more - and the Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS) program has been an unbelievable opportunity here. Through Knight-Hennessy, I have gotten innumerable opportunities to closely engage with individuals at the top of their fields globally, ranging from Siddhartha Mukherjee, one of the most famous Indian doctors, to Park Won-Soon, the Mayor of Seoul, South Korea and Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Probably more than the structured learning and opportunities, it is the unstructured experiences through KHS and the broader Stanford community that have had a huge impact on me. From spending late nights at Denning House to hanging out on the beach in Costa Rica as part of a global study trip, I have learned a lot simply by talking to my peers in different fields, be they from medicine to journalism. These conversations also sometimes bleed into serendipitous collaborations that could have global impact, such as DistanceML to help people socially distance for COVID-19, the Stanford AgWater collaboration to help farmers worldwide to save water, TajRupt.AI - Central Asia's first Artificial Intelligence lab, and even a new stealth startup I am launching.

Beyond Stanford, Silicon Valley, as the center of the tech world, has its own allure - there is a tremendously high density of smart and accomplished people here and you can never expect who you will run into, from former CEOs of Infosys to Nobel Prize winners. And it's always fun to make a trip up to San Francisco, especially when it's for a party at the invitation of the Indian Consul General.

I'll concede that the samosas and lassis here are not that great. But other than that, I wouldn't change a single thing about my Stanford and Knight-Hennessy experiences so far, and they have definitely made me better at out-thinking, out-working and out-caring for the world.

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