Paromita Sengupta (Bengaluru)
Gopalchetty Brahma (21) is the latest to join India’s exclusive club of outer space celebrities. An aerospace engineering undergrad at the Jalandhar-based Lovely Professional University, Punjab — ranked Punjab’s #2 private varsity in the latest EW India Higher Education Rankings 2020-21 — he was among the Top 100 of 6,500 participants from 98 countries conferred the Silver Honour award in the youth (18-plus) category of the world’s largest and toughest International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition (IAAC). The event was held online in May-July 2020 by the Heidelburg (Germany)-based company Edu.Harbour.
The elder of two children of Rayagada (Odisha)-based G. Harishankar, senior pharmacist at JK Paper Mills, and homemaker G. Swarnalata, Brahma is thankful for the institutional and parental support he has received. “I attribute my achievement to hard work combined with the invaluable support of my parents and mentor Dr. Amit Kumar Thakur, associate professor of aerospace engineering at LPU. However, I’m disappointed that I fell short of winning the gold medal. Given limited resources at home during the pandemic, I relied majorly on the Internet and science magazines,” he recalls.
Brahma’s interest in astronomy was ignited when as a five year old, he witnessed a shooting star streak across the Rayagada night sky. “Stargazing and moongazing has become a habit since then. Both my parents patiently answer all my questions to the best of their knowledge. My father even gifted me a pair of binoculars and books on astronomy when I turned ten. Over the years, I have tried to gather knowledge about our universe and have participated in science competitions from school until university to help me understand the vast range of advanced astronomy and astrophysics,” says Brahma, winner of the Young Scientist India 2017-18 award among other encomiums.
Setting the stage for the future, Brahma aspires to qualify as an outer space scientist after completing his bachelor’s degree. “I intend to sign up for an integrated MS-Ph D degree in cosmology and astrophysics from a reputed university in the US or Germany and continue post-doctoral research in dark energy and dark matter. My ultimate dream is to join the Indian Space Research Organisation and continue to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos,” he enthuses.