The Intel Science Talent Search is considered the Nobel Prize of high school science: 70 percent of 2011 finalists are children of recent immigrants, concludes a study by the pro-immigrant National Foundation for American Policy. The Math Olympiad also is dominated by children of immigrants, the study found.
Of 40 Intel finalists — the brightest science students in the U.S. — 16 have parents born in China, 10 in India, one in South Korea and one in Iran, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Only 12 had U.S.-born parents, including winner Evan O’Dorney.
“You see it here in Silicon Valley. It’s like planting a vigorous sapling and giving it Miracle-Gro,” said Menlo Park father Vivek Wadhwa, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s School of Information and a native of India.
“Here you take the cream of the crop,” from their birthplace abroad, “then put them in some of the best schools in the world “… these students are really, really competitive and work very hard, inspired by their parents, and represent all the American ideals.”
Almost all of the finalists’ immigrant parents came to the United States on H-1B visas, which require exceptional job skills.
The Indian-born parents of finalist Nikhil Parthasarathy of Mountain View both have PhDs. Dad works at Microsoft; mom teaches chemistry at a private school.
Finalist Rohan Mahajan, whose Indian father works for Cisco, researched methods of improving the efficiency of photo-electro-chemical cells, which could improve solar energy. Something much more simple also motivated him.
“I got interested in energy production,” he said, “because whenever we went to India the power always went out.”
These kids are very smart — and they work very hard.