Vatsal Gandhi’s got a bright future ahead of him.
The 2012 Eastern Regional High School grad is about to begin his eight-year medical degree at Duquesne and the Temple University School of Medicine.
Even though the 18 year old has dreamed of entering the medical field since he was a child, he also spends his time focusing on how to make his community greener.
And, in his sophomore year, a light went off.
When he heard his high school was laying off 34 teachers, he tasked himself with trying to find ways to keep those teachers on board, looking for ways to cut elsewhere from the budget.
“They always left the lights on, even when no one was there,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi started doing his homework. He researched wind power, solar power and geothermal power, along with the more traditional nuclear power and coal power, hoping something would be a fit for his school.
His research led him to solar energy, which, he said, would have saved the school $654,000 per year for the school’s energy bill over 25 years.
Gandhi took his research to school officials and district administration in the hopes some change could be made in his high school to lower energy and electric bills.
He said staff listened to his idea, but didn’t move forward with it. Gandhi said there wasn’t enough room for a solar field, but even solar panels on the school’s roof would have been a huge financial undertaking upfront.
Last summer, Gandhi participated in a research internship with the University of Pennsylvania. Penn chemistry professor and co-director of PENNERGY Dr. Andrew Rappe, along with Dr. Alex Huang, a professor at NC State University, reviewed Gandhi’s research paper, A Green Powering of the Public Schools.
In his paper, Gandhi thanked his teachers at Eastern who allowed him to do his energy research.
“I would like to thank Mr. William Crozier for teaching me college-level chemistry which helped me understanding the chemistry behind the various energy sources; to Mrs. Cheryl Roberts whose teaching of physics thought me about power and energy; and to Miss Roya Nabi for her teaching of biology to understand the greenhouse gases and its impact on habitat; and sincere thanks to Mr. Tull and Mr. Melleby for allowing me to access the school data,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi also received letters from U.S. Department of Energy and the White House, thanking him for his extensive research and interest in making his community more energy efficient.
“Thank you for writing,” President Barack Obama said in his letter to Gandhi. “I appreciate hearing from you, and I share the vision of millions of Americans who want to secure our nation’s energy future. We must seize this important opportunity to create new jobs and industries, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and protect the public health and our environment.”
Gandhi said he is excited about starting school this fall. He’s already reached out to his adviser at Duquesne, who, he said, is eager to read his high school research.
“Most likely I’ll show it to my Duquesne adviser, to try and make a difference in Pittsburgh, too,” he said.