am the most incredible bibliophile you might ever meet.?/h2>
Coming from anyone else, that statement would come across as a boast. From our latest Quoran of the Week, Akshat Mahajan, it simply a statement of fact.
Consider this: By the time he was 12, Akshat had amassed a collection of some 1,500 booksnd could remember the contents of each one almost perfectly. That penchant for voracious reading led to him getting featured in five newspapers and on television.
It also set the tone for the rest of his life.
He was still only 12 when he discovered that he was really interested in physics, and proceeded to pursue it with vigour over the next few years.
he things you do when something really grips your interest is amazing. In my case, it led me to buy textbooks, lots of them. I remain, to the best of my knowledge, the only person whose 14-year-old-self owned a copy of Shankar Quantum Mechanics, a graduate level introduction to the subject. I even taught myself calculus when my math teacher refused,?said Akshat.
It spilled over: He was soon teaching himself everything he found interesting, borrowing old textbooks from graduating seniors and wading through battered tomes of Maxwell 19th century treatise on electrodynamics and Max Born Atomic Physics from the school library.
At this time, he was at a boarding school in Indore, central India, having moved moved back to his birthplace after spending his earliest years at an international school in Bangkok, Thailand.
The move wasn an entirely happy one: the education system in India didn sit well with him.
hen I graduated, I had this inordinate sense of purpose. I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a physicist. I knew also that I could not stand being in India for one minute longer than I had to. I was sick of the education: sick of the rote-learning, sick of teachers who simply didn know what they were talking about, sick of the inflexibility, terrified of the brutal pressure that entrance exams induced within my colleagues. It was like living in a crude facsimile of the Victorian era. All of it was alien to me.?/p>
Following a different script
He decided he wanted to continue his education in the United States, but in a move completely out of character for him, chose where to apply based on a movie dialogue.
usually demonstrate good judgement, but?the only reason I actually applied to UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) was because I heard its name mentioned in a movie,?revealed Akshat.
am serious. In Will Smith The Pursuit of Happyness, there is a scene where Will Smith and Thandie Newton (Chris and Linda, in the film) talk about where they went to college. Linda mentions that she went to UCLA, and waits expectantly for Chris to answer. When he finally responds with MIT, there a moment of stunned silence before she asks in a tone of disbelief, ou mean the MIT€?/p>
Akshat hadn even heard of MIT at that point, but noticing how impressed Linda was with that mention, decided to look it up online and was hooked.
IT sounded like the sort of place I always wanted to go: a place brimming with people with an impeccable sense of technical efficiency and engineering humour, this mystical magical meritocracy where everyone was happy and warm and successful. If I hadn seen The Pursuit of Happyness, I probably would not have thought about coming to the United States at all.?/p>
And while MIT was what he set his heart on, he also applied to UCLA, 渂ecause, hey, if I was going to apply to one place because of a movie, why not apply to the other??/p>
Akshat didn get into MIT, but has no regrets about his second choice UCLA (t my home away from home, I love every second of the time Ie spent here?. He is currently doing a bachelor degree in physics, and graduates next June.
During his time there, Akshat has also had a chance to do a two-year internship at NASA Planetary Data Systems division. worked on modelling climate change on Earth as a first approach to building better climate models for Earth-like planets,?he said.
That not all that has kept him busy. He has also been working on Scribe, a Gmail text editor, the idea for which was triggered by a question posted on Quora.
here was a question asking about how the Quora text editor managed to replace copy-pasted links with images and friendly hyperlinks. Now I have a thing about text editors. On a whim, I decided to see if it was possible for me to reproduce the same sort of behaviour from scratch. My extension works perfectly, but Ie yet to test it as thoroughly as I like. Maybe by the start of the fall quarter, Il get around to releasing it for public use,?said Akshat.
He has another more challenging project he is working on.
want to be able to implement an Undo and Redo button within online text editors feature that is not supported on Quora or elsewhere. You can see how useful this is if you’ve, say, accidentally deleted your entire answer, as I have discovered to my cost.?/p>
Quora answer changed the course of my life?/h2>
According to Akshat, his life on Quora began about two years ago out of a sense of quiet desperation.
Before he left for the U.S., he done his research and攄espite his father skepticism攗sed publicly available data to prove that there could be a career in the pure sciences and that only 0.3% of physicists are unemployed. It was only much later that he discovered that nearly every structured research program across the country caters purely to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
ry as I might, I could not find a single, solid, well-organized research program that would accept an undergraduate. I was spending an incredible sum of money, all for the prospect of doing really good research. My graduate school applications depended on it; the entire career path I had planned out so meticulously rested on it.?/p>
In desperation, he searched online for 榡obs for physics bachelor degrees?
was simply trying to seek reassurance攌nowledge from an actual human being that everything was going to be okay. Instead I found the answer that changed everything,?said Akshat.
淗adayat Seddiqi did what my father skepticism could not: force me to re-evaluate everything. I could not challenge his facts. But what I could do was upvote, and thank him. That was how I joined Quora: so I could thank someone who had no idea that he changed the course of my life.?/p>
While that was was initially sucked him in to Quora, it was the sheer versatality of other answers he found that kept drawing him back.
hat is one of the many reasons I keep coming back to Quora, this incredible melting pot where I can read Cristina Hartmann tales of adventure through her deafness and now encroaching blindness; or Olivia Roqua life as an air hostess; or Andrew Watts?struggles through music school; or Annie Lindseth incredible career designing airports; or Siri, the adult film actress who talks candidly about life on set.?/p>
Akshat began contributing some monumental answers of his ownike how he learned to read Cyrillic during an eight-hour layover in Russia; why the best of all human efforts would fail to index the entire Internet; defending the social sciences and debunking Pakistan’s population problem. The quality of his answers drew the attention of a few high-powered Quorans, but one in particular.
don really know what it was that brought Inna Vishik攐ne of my favourite writers and possibly the most visible practicing physicist in my feedo my attention, but she was the one who posted about me on Quora Science Users to Follow, a blog that at least began to get other people interested in me. Her comments on my answers have been nothing but incredibly positive and motivating. In an answer she wrote on Quora, she went as far as to call me a Quora user who deserved to be a Top Writer, alongside far more deserving people like Patrick Diamond and Elizabeth H. Simmons. Imagine! Putting her name behind an unknown like myself.?/p>
An uncertain future
Akshat says that while he has been falling out of love with physics in recent months, he has also been falling in love with the far cleaner world of software engineering.
But there is some worry about what the future holds future he hopes will be in the United States. With only a year left, he is exploring all his channels for a job in software and has even set up a website for people to look at.
have my own reasons for wanting to stay in the U.S.here is a woman involved, alongside my own desire to do good on my parents?investment in my future. But I do not know how to navigate the future, and the looming prospect of leaving behind the things I love continues to haunt me.?/p>
?Akshat Mahajan was nominated for Quoran of the Week by Mo Nastri.
Akshat pie chart
What Akshat receives
Apart from the honour of being named Quoran of the Week, Akshat also receives some swag in the form of an official Quora T-shirt, shipped direct from Mountain View, California. Congratulations, Akshat!
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