The Young STEM Advocate: Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali Rao
Image credits: Shopify

Gitanjali Rao is indeed a young Indian American woman who works as a writer, scientist, and inventor. She is also a STEM advocate. She gained notoriety in 2017 when she was named the winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. As a result of her interest and expertise in science and technology, she has amassed a slew of awards and distinctions.

Because of her ability to innovate, she’s been able to help alleviate societal afflictions including opiate addiction, cyberbullying, and a lack of safe drinking water. In 2020, after being awarded the first Child of the Year by TIME Magazine and appearing on the magazine’s cover, her passion and perseverance placed her on the map throughout the world. Keep reading to learn more about Gitanjali Rao.

Her Childhood

Gitanjali Rao
Image credits: Steam Squad

Ram and Bharathi Rao gave birth to Gitanjali Rao on November 19, 2005, in Lone Tree, Colorado. She was raised by scholarly parents who encouraged her interest in technology and science from an early age.

In 2012, at the age of seven, her passion for STEM led her to be named a Davidson Young Scholar. She enrolled in the STEM program at Highlands Ranch High School in Colorado. At the age of ten, Gitanjali wrote her first book and excelled in the arts, taking home the first prize at the International Aviation Art Competition.

The arts, science, and invention have always been a part of her life, and she also enjoys Indian classical dance, singing, and piano playing in addition to swimming and baking.

Her Career

Gitanjali Rao
Image credits: NPR

At the age of 4, her uncle gave Gitanjali a science kit, which piqued her interest in the subject. When the Flint water shortages broke six years later, her interest in science was re-ignited. Her parents could see she was motivated to find a solution.

Through a partnership with a 3M research scientist, she developed her first product, Tethys. This gadget uses Bluetooth to communicate data to a mobile phone when it detects the presence of lead in water. Since then, she and the Denver Water Center have been hard at work developing a prototype of her innovation.

She created Kindly, a Chrome extension and app powered by artificial intelligence to help identify cyberbullying in its earliest stages in real-time. She also created Epione, a device for early detection of opioid addiction and a prescription for it.

A published author, Rao’s 2015 self-published novel is titled, Baby Brother Wonders. Simon & Schuster will release A Young Innovative Guide to STEM in 2020, which she authored later that year.


Gitanjali Rao
Image credits: shethepeople, the women’s channel

As Gitanjali’s problem-solving skills continued to improve, she made significant progress. That same year she shot to popularity, she was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30. The year after that, she won the President’s Environmental Youth Award of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

In the TCS Ignite Innovation Student Challenge in 2019, her Eipone idea won the Top “Health” Pillar Prize. TIME magazine will honor Gitanjali as the outstanding young innovator in 2020.

In addition to her several accolades, Rao has made media appearances in support of her innovations. She’s been a featured speaker at TEDx three times. In December 2020, she was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. Gitanjali also appeared in Marvel’s Hero Project as Genius Gitanjali.

FAQs About Gitanjali Rao

What did Gitanjali Rao invent?

The Tethys gadget, designed by Gitanjali in 2017, detects lead pollution in water and earned her the title of America’s Top Young Scientist in 2017. She created the gadget in under five months as a seventh-grader at STEM School Highlands Ranch.

When was Gitanjali Rao born?

Parents Ram and Bharathi Rao had Gitanjali Rao on November 19, 2005, in Lone Tree, Colorado.

When did Gitanjali Rao invent Tethys?

Tethys, Rao’s innovation, won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in 2017 and a check for $25,000.

What is Gitanjali Rao doing now?

As of right now, she is residing in Lone Tree, Colorado, and attending the STEM School of Highlands Ranch there. For Rao, genetics and epidemiology are interesting fields of research. She is a University of Colorado researcher.

What does Gitanjali Rao do in her spare time?

Besides being a “60-year-old biologist from Geneva,” her interests include baking.


We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive bio on Gitanjali Rao and were inspired by determination and creativity to use her skill and talent to help the world be a better place to live in. To learn more about other notable personalities, keep reading Seema.