July 31. 2012 10:46PM

14-year-old Nashua scientist is getting national attention

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA — A talented young scientist is receiving national attention this week, making her dream to change the world one step closer to reality.

Deepika Kurup, 14, is one of 10 finalists in the 14th annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the nation’s premier science competition for middle school students.

Kurup has found an innovative solution to harnessing solar energy for water purification, a technology that she believes has the power to save millions of lives throughout the world.

By adding zinc oxide to titanium dioxide and then using a photocatalytic rod that harnesses solar energy to produce green and sustainable water purification, Kurup’s experiment is turning heads.

Kurup’s invention was chosen because of the “scientific ingenuity she demonstrated” in her technological invention and entry video for the competition, according to a release from Discovery Education.

“Deepika and the other Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalists embody the innovative spirit that will drive them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and thrive in a competitive global workforce,” said Bill Goodwyn, CEO of Discovery Education. “This unique challenge allows our country’s next generation of leaders to interact and build relationships with real-world scientists to truly inspire curiosity.”

Kurup, who recently finished eighth grade at Fairgrounds Middle School, said Tuesday she is extremely passionate about science and is even more committed to finding a way to provide clean, affordable drinking water to people who do not have easy access to sanitary water.

According to Kurup, more than 1 billion people throughout the world do not have access to pure drinking water, with some individuals spending up to four hours a day collecting water that is filled with germs that can cause illnesses.

“That is time wasted that could be spent getting an education, reading or raising children,” said Kurup, who will be entering Nashua High School South in a few weeks.

The daughter of Meena and Pradeep Kurup, she has been working with a 3M scientist and mentor, Jim Jonza, to develop her invention from a concept into an actual prototype, which will then be presented at the competition’s final event in October in Minnesota.

“I really do have a long way to go,” admits Kurup, explaining she would like to have her invention become a reality and used worldwide someday.

If she wins the science challenge and is named America’s Top Young Scientist, Kurup says she will use the $25,000 prize money for college, donate some to charity and also create a platform that will encourage more young women to consider science as a career.

Aside from science and math, Kurup also enjoys martial arts. She has achieved a black belt in the art of Shaolin Kempo and is in the process of obtaining a black belt in taekwondo. She also plays clarinet and saxophone and was president of her school’s Tri-M Music Honors Society.

Kurup says she wants to pursue a career in neurology.