Washington, Oct 21: US President Barack Obama has lauded a budding Indian-American astronomy buff who has the distinction of being the first person to be a Global Finalist in Google Science Fair twice.
15-year-old Pranav Sivakumar, who attended White House Astronomy Night organized by Obama on Monday, was described during the the event by the US president as having an "adventurous spirit".
"When Pranav Sivakumar was six years old, he found an encyclopedia about famous scientists lying around the house. At least he thinks it was lying around there. Actually, his parents probably were setting it out hoping he was going to run into it," Obama said.
"And he's been fascinated with outer space ever since. For years, every Saturday morning, his parents drove him an hour to an astrophysics lab for 'Ask-A-Scientist' class. And before long, he teamed up with researchers he met there to study the 'gravitational lensing of quasars'. That is not what I was thinking about at his age," the US President said.
"Pranav was a global finalist in the Google Science Fair -- not once, but twice. So you know he's going to do some important things. Give him a big round of applause," Obama said.
An eighth grader at the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois, Pranav is one of 20 teens from across the world to be named a finalist in Google's online science and technology competition.
He received the Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award last month for researching objects called quasars that appear unusually bright in the night sky.
Pranav, a runner up in the 2013 National Spelling Bee, is working to find galaxies dominated by dark matter with a professor at the University of Chicago.
As part of winning the Virgin Galactic Pioneer award, he gets to tour the company's Mojave Air and Spaceport to meet the company's engineers, and also gets a personal tour of Virgin Galactic's new spaceship.
"It has been an exciting journey," Pranav, who hails from Obama's hometown of Chicago, said in a recent press release. "I plan to continue this research for many years, hoping to contribute at least a little to our understanding of dark matter and dark energy, which make up 95 percent of the universe and determine its future," he said.