Senior Anjali Shah continues her journey of STEM learning


Lilly Rahm

Working on homework for AP Statistics, senior Anjali Shah student aids for science teacher and Beta Chi Pi sponsor Sally Steininger. Shah has had Steininger as a teacher since sophomore year, taking AP Biology last year, and she is also now Beta Chi Pi president. “I enjoy helping out because I took all the material last year, so it’s nice to be able to help them with labs with parts that I know I had trouble with,” Shah said.

Through research papers, internships and pre-engineering projects, senior Anjali Shah decided she wants to pursue a career in engineering. Passionate about her research, Shah never set a plan for a future career; her interests have paved the way.

I don’t think I necessarily knew that I wanted to go into [STEM],” Shah said. “It was more like I would rule things out, so I would try a bunch of different activities and be like, ‘yeah, I don’t like that, but I like this instead.’ For instance, with medicine, I thought that I’d be interested in something like that, but I’m really not.”

STEM classes stood out to her over other classes because they are more formulaic. Prior to any interest in maths and sciences, Shah liked art.

“I think this sounds really weird, but art really drove my passion for STEM because that supplied the creative side, and then the STEM is more left-brain. So it was a nice merger between the two,” Shah said. “I always knew that I liked art; I would always be painting or drawing since I was a toddler, but I didn’t know that I [would] like the math part of it until I could see the real-world application of it.”

Shah recalls an elementary school project where she got her first taste of how she could apply this work.

At Mason Ridge, one of our projects was an architecture interior-design thing. I remember that really stood out to me and kind of sparked my interest right away,” Shah said. “Even something as small as that little architecture interior design design-a-house project made a lightbulb go off in my head.”

In search of more exposure to real-world application, Shah emailed a few startup companies at the end of last year and got the opportunity of being a summer intern for a startup called Vortex.

“My favorite part [of interning at Vortex] was definitely the machining,” Shah said. “I’ve never taken any machine classes where you get to use the legs [of lathes] or different things like that, but I got trained on how to use the lathe and the mill, both of which are different machines. I would go on Autodesk inventor, which is a cad program, and I would design these different fixtures, like different glue fixtures to allow glue to be added to the inside of laser probes and things to hold voltmeters in place while they tested different lasers to increase efficiency in the manufacturing process. Then, I would literally go out into the back and make it with the exact measurements down to the thousandths place. That was really cool.”

Through learning about machinery, designing and manufacturing medical devices and reading through company patents, Shah is more open-minded toward her future.

“This summer working at Vortex definitely widened my scope because before, I was so focused on, ‘okay, I’m going to do one specific type of engineering, and I’ve got to find that, pick it and stick with that,’” Shah said. “This showed me that it’s a multifaceted deal, so you can go into the manufacturing side, [and] you can go into the design process. It’s not just if you’re doing biomedical engineering, you’re designing prosthetics.”

Apart from Vortex, Shah has also continued her work on research projects since her ophthalmology paper.

I’ve been working with a few other different studies. Right now, I’m working with one that counts the number of patients seen after hours on weekends versus weekdays,” Shah said. “Another one is about the difference between the heart rate [of] trained doctors [versus] fellows or residents when they are doing surgery, just as the psychological aspect of medicine.”

The two are individual projects, which Shah has been involved in by inputting data and sorting through it.

It’s hard because a lot of what I do to further my interests is all done outside of school. None of it is related in any way, so it’s like two different worlds,” Shah said.

Juggling a variety projects, Shah picked up on a few ways to help her manage time effectively.

“I think when I’m in school, I focus on school, and when I’m running, I’m running and then when I’m at home doing these other things, I’m just doing that,” Shah said. “It’s easy to stress yourself out and try to get caught up in, ‘oh, I have to do X, I have to do Y [and] I have to do Z, [so] I’m never going to have any time.’ Thinking that just takes more time, but at the end of the day, it’ll all work out, and you’re going to get it done.” 

Along with being present in the moment, Shah advises students to use resources at school.

“Let your passion for something drive another thing,” Shah said. “Yes, compartmentalize it, but I definitely know that I’ve asked my physics teacher questions about a study that I was working on because I was curious about some principle.”