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By Vinny Reda (June 28, 2007)

George Dazzles International Scientists, SPH Students Alike

Ajish George with Scott Tenenbaum Ajish George with Scott Tenenbaum (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

Ajish George has the skills, plus the will, to share. The winner of a 2007 Great Dane Award for contributions outside the classroom is "an amazing talent," according to Scott Tenenbaum, molecular geneticist in the School of Public Health and Gen*NY*sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics.

So talented, that George searches for new experiences beyond material gain. A year ago, Tenenbaum was delighted when George, then in his third year of Ph.D. candidacy in Biomedical Sciences, asked if he could help with the professor's first-time fall course, Biomedical Basis of Public Health.

"There were no teaching opportunities available for grad students in our department," said Tenenbaum, "so Ajish took on a teaching assistant's role without any expectation of being paid."

"I had been working closely with Scott on his research and had survived enough of his lectures to learn his relaxed teaching style," said George. "So, I figured I could help field questions and do some grading without too much of a hassle."

He wound up doing more. "I am not sure I would have been able to successfully run the semester without Ajish's assistance," said Tenenbaum.

The course had 70 students with many questions. George applied his combined biology/computer science expertise to create a Web-based interface where instructors could post course materials and students could interact with teachers and each other. The site received more than 1,000 hits. George also tutored students and coordinated presentations from the class's 10 lecturers.

"In the end-of-year student responses, several students made mention of Ajish specifically as making a profound difference for them," said Tenenbaum.

George looks to be profound in bringing systems-level thinking and analysis to today's policymakers. An RPI graduate at 19, this spring he worked with Professor George Richardson, system dynamicist and chair of the Department of Public Administration, on a physiological model of small-cell lung cancer just a week before the deadline for submission of papers to the 24th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society.

"A long shot," said George, but the paper was accepted and he presented it in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in July.

For the past 10 months, he has also teamed with Tenenbaum to develop computer-based-technology software. "We had the honor to be selected this May to present at the 7th Annual SmartStart Venture Forum," said George.

As a boy, George fled with his parents from Bahrain after the first Gulf War to escape violence among Sh'ias and Sunnis. Three years ago, medical schools rejected him solely because of his youth. Yet, as a voluminous reader with a passion for existential literature, he is philosophical, and happy for the intellectual freedom he has.

"I've been lucky enough here to find a few neat projects, and mentors, such as Scott and George, open enough to let me take a hack at their work, make my mistakes and learn something," said George. "It's the interactions I've had with these people that I value the most."


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