Aparaajita Balaji is a member of The International School of Minnesota’s (ISM) Class of 2014. Hers is an inspiring story that celebrates young women who are closing the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). With the latest studies indicating a disproportionately low proportion of bachelor degrees in computer sciences (18%), engineering (19%), and physics (19%) obtained by women, Aparaajita’s story is breaking the stereotype.
Aparaajita is a SABIS® student through and through. She joined ISM, the only SABIS® private, day and boarding school in the U.S., as a Kindergartener in 2001. She even went to Pre-Kindergarten at the International School of Choueifat – Sharjah, a SABIS® school located in the U.A.E., before moving to the U.S. with her family. She remained at ISM until she graduated in 2014.
Around 9th grade, Aparaajita found her passion. “ISM played an important role in fostering my interest in STEM. In fact, 9th grade biology was the most important factor in my decision to pursue genetics in college. We performed a blood test to determine our blood type, and the rest is history!” But biology was not her only interest. Aparaajita was a member of ISM’s robotic team “WE ROBOT” from 9th through 12th grade, participating in the Minnesota State Championship and placing 4th in the state with her team.
Like many successful and well-rounded SABIS® alumni, Aparaajita was actively involved in the SABIS Student Life Organization® throughout school. She was an SLO® prefect in a number of SLO® departments allowing her to participate in SLO® training camps, activities, and community service projects. “SLO® taught me how to be actively involved in whatever community I was a part of,” she commented.
Aparaajita boasts a long list of achievements. She is the recipient of a National Advanced Placement® (AP®) Scholar award, National Spanish Exam Gold Medalist, Grand Concours (French) Gold Medalist, High School Academic Quality Coordinator Award (awarded to student who took challenging high school courses and performed at consistently high levels), High School French Award, and High School Computer Award. She was one of the founders and president of ISM’s National Honor Society Chapter and was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Academy STEM camp and the University of Minnesota Material Science camp. She also found the time to play basketball and loves to swim.
Upon graduation, Aparaajita attended the University of California – Berkeley and majored in Molecular and Cell Biology: Genetics. She completed her bachelor’s degree in only three years at UC Berkley due to the number of college credits she had earned through her Advanced Placement® courses at ISM. This fall (2018), she will be starting a fully-funded PhD program in biological and biomedical sciences at Yale University.
Reflecting on her time at ISM, Aparaajita believes that the skill she learned at ISM that has helped her most in life is “persistence to make sure I complete the task undertaken.” We look forward to following Aparaajita’s continued success and are confident that her many skills, including persistence, will allow her to achieve great heights and break many gender stereotypes along the way!
"ISM played an important role in fostering my interest in STEM. In fact, 9th grade biology was the most important factor in my decision to pursue genetics in college. We performed a blood test to determine our blood type, and the rest is history!"-- Aparaajita Balaji
If you graduated from a SABIS® Network school, you can connect with Aparaajita and other successful SABIS® alumni through the SABIS® Alumni Global Association. Go to saga.sabis.net to register today!