College Applications as an Emerging Innovators Program Alum

 My name is Nitya Devisetti and I am an alumni of the Emerging Innovator’s Research Program (Summer 2019) at the Children’s Innovation Center. This year (2020-21), I applied to various universities, and I found my experience at the program to be very beneficial for my application. I am going to address how in various sub sections throughout this blog.

  1. How the experience helped me stand out

I was able to apply to various top-tier universities, and a portion of the application for the Ivy League schools includes attaching a Research/Academic Supplement. They ask about your research mentor (I put Ms. Shanti Balaraman), what kind of research you did, and more.

For example, I attached my published paper from the program as a Harvard Academic Supplement. Here are my responses to some of the information they requested:

“Type: Published research paper

Research Mentor: Shanti Balaraman, President & CEO of Children’s Innovation Center

Published on: Emerging Innovators (an online science journal)

Description of my particular contribution: I conducted in-depth research about whole-systems design thinking, biomimicry, green chemistry, and more. I then applied my knowledge by writing a 28-page research paper on an innovation to improve indoor air quality by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. I created flowcharts, made detailed illustrations, developed a solution scope and design, examined future implications, and more.”

Additionally, I submitted similar information for the Yale STEM Research Supplement. Again, here are my responses to some of the information they requested:

Which of the following best describes your area of research?

Area of Research: Biological Sciences

Briefly describe the context for your research. For example: How did you come about this research opportunity? Did your research occur in a research laboratory? How long did you pursue this research opportunity?

Research Description:

How would you classify your research?

Research Classification: Stand-alone independent project

How much assistance did you have while conducting your research? For example: Did you work directly with your mentor, in a team setting, or independently? Did you receive help with your hypothesis?

Assistance Received:

My mentor gave lectures on concepts of whole-systems design thinking, biomimicry, green chemistry, and more. The research paper was an independent project where I applied these concepts to design a hypothetical innovation that would solve an issue that I observe in our world. I intensively studied various organisms and observed how they adapt to different conditions (i.e., mangroves can survive in saline water, sharks have ridges on their skin to reduce drag, etc.). I brainstormed my idea (reducing CO2 in the air by converting it to O2 efficiently), but I received help in creating the flow charts for the swarm intelligence function and considered my mentor's advice on various aspects of my paper (illustrations, dye-sensitized solar cells, efficient energy sources, ethanol production, and more).

Was your paper submitted for publication? Yes

Was your paper accepted and published? Yes

Specify the name of the journal which accepted/published your paper and include the full citation to your paper. If available online, please also include a URL where the paper can be accessed.

Journal: Emerging Innovators, an online science journal (URL: )


Devisetti, N. (2019, July 19). Oxy-Pro Air Purifier (Acronym: OPAP). Retrieved from


Do you intend to ask a mentor to submit a recommendation on your behalf?  Yes ”

The last question in the sampler above brings me to my next topic.

2. Recommendation letter in applications

              Having a research mentor that knows your work ethic and dedication to the major you’re applying to is essential for standing out in the college application process. Ms. Shanti was such a person for me because of the summer I spent working on my paper through the research program. One school even invited me to submit a recommender’s name for a potential scholarship opportunity. As such, it was a no-brainer for me to reach out to Ms. Shanti for a recommendation. She accepted my request without hesitation. I was able to submit this recommendation to multiple schools, and though I may be unsure of the extent to which Ms. Shanti’s recommendation helped, I can guarantee that a strong recommendation from my research mentor helped me stand out amongst thousands of applicants who may not have had that addition.

However, as much as supplements can enhance your application, the most important aspect of a college application is demonstrating who you are as a person and displaying an authentic/genuine passion for learning, which takes me to my final topic.

 3. Skills and confidence gained through the program

              Participating in the Emerging Innovators Research Program was an invaluable experience because it shaped me as a learner and curious thinker. It taught me to question the systems around me and brainstorm progressive solutions to our changing world; and I really portrayed these qualities in a majority of my essays. I am sure that Ms. Shanti’s recommendation only solidified my passion for learning and exploring, something that colleges really value in students. Furthermore, having a published paper through the program and being able to include that in my college applications and resume allowed me to feel more confident about my submissions overall.

Overall, I really encourage future applicants to engage in the Emerging Innovators Research Program. There’s no doubt that the program helped me grow as a student and made my application look good on paper. However, the lessons I learned and the connection I made with Ms. Shanti will be a lifelong valuable resource.

About The Author: Nitya Devisetti is a high school senior from Cupertino, California who completed the Emerging Innovators Research Program. She’ll be majoring in Biology in the Seven Year Medical Program at TCNJ and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (with a full scholarship for undergraduate tuition, room & board).