Kunal Sangani

Innovation started early for incoming Stanford University freshman Kunal Sangani. At just 17, he was named the U.S. finalist for the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for his project about the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”). A native of Syracuse, New York, where intense discussion about fracking led to a moratorium on the practice, Sangani first heard about the proposed projects when campaigners knocked on his door four years ago. “They were asking us to sign a petition against fracking,” he says. “It seemed to be an environmental issue that had a lot of local importance for me.”

But Sangani admits that once he learned more, he saw the national — and even international — significance that the issue had. “We’re right on the verge of this issue,” he says, noting that applying what he’s learned is a key component of his research. “I was able to use a lot of pure math and applied physics and chemistry in my models.”

Planning on majoring in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering, Sangani says that he wants to study “more of a tech field” but hopes to be able to transfer his knowledge to environmental issues. “I’m interested in applying the things I learn to environmental studies,” he says.

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