Student Spotlight – Nilesh M.
Hometown: Naperville, Illinois
Areas of Global Interest: Future of technology, namely AI and advanced imaging, specifically in the healthcare industry currently
Class at School: AP Physics C
Book: Lust for Life, by Irving Stone
Food: My mother’s Mishti Doi (Indian sweet yogurt)
Color: Sapphire Blue
Quote: “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” – Steve Jobs
I created 3d image analysis software that can help track recovery indicators for patients with various ailments. My software doesn’t diagnose anything – it gives doctors data to base their diagnosis upon.
This software stemmed from a marriage between my experience as a high school football player and my time as an intern at a Northwestern University’s Cancer Rehabilitation Studies Lab. As a football player, I noticed my athletic trainer’s medical feedback was based almost purely on qualitative analysis; metrics that were unreliable at best.
A few months later, while working on 3d image acquisition and analysis processes at Northwestern, I realized the data I was generating could be incredibly valuable to care providers for athletes. I wondered why I couldn’t get the same technology in the hands of the athletic trainers at my high school. There were two reasons – the hardware was too expensive, and the software was too complicated to use. After some poking around, I found an alternative hardware option; all that was needed now was usable software. I couldn’t find it, so I built it.
After the success of the initial product tests, I took my idea to Quarter Zero’s Catapult Incubator, where I met other like-minded teenagers; two of them ended up joining my start-up. While at this incubator, I also learned I could impact a far broader patient base than student-athletes. My product could be valuable for patients with 3rd-degree burns and lymphatic filariasis, for example. Thus, I expanded my vision of potential customers to include a plethora of non-profit organizations.
How do your projects and interests connect to global citizenship?
I’ve always loved building things. For most of my life, I built things to entertain or help myself or those around me; I created funny websites for friends and automatic light switches for my room.
However, as I explored the world around me, I began to design solutions to the more significant problems I was exposed to. A notable example of one of my first “important” projects was the work I did for the Lily Foundation – an NGO working in Kolkata, India. While I was volunteering there, I realized that the integration of technology could streamline much of the work I was tasked with doing. Thus, I build a software platform which streamlined the organization’s student record-keeping and scholarship application processes. This software helped solve a plethora of problems for the small organization.
That experience showed me that I could solve real problems with technology. All I needed to do was look for issues to address. As I continue to broaden my exposure and explore the world around me, I have begun to take on more complex challenges. As my world continues to grow, I am confident that the problems I will address in the future will be bigger than the ones I aim to solve today; however, the solutions I generate will stem from the childlike excitement I feel every time I get one step closer to building something awesome.
To what extent does your interest in helping others inform your goals or who you are as a person?
Just go for it. You’ll try things and fail. You’ll get doors slammed in your face. People will laugh at you; some might call you crazy. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, I sincerely believe that all of the crazy experiences you throw yourself into become stories.
Keep going. You’ll fall on your face more than a few times. Whatever, it’s ok; get up. Never let the fear of failure keep you from pursuing whatever it is that you care about.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
Though I love being around people and enjoy getting to know others, I really value my time alone. Most of my friends would be somewhat surprised by how introverted I can be at times. I have just as much fun playing guitar in my room on a Saturday night as I do hanging out with a group of friends.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, however, it works for me. My love for both solitude and company has let me develop my inner creativity and my network of friends. Yet, I think it’s something most people who meet me wouldn’t know until they’d known me for quite some time.
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