Aneesh Agarwal ’17 blends biology, research, and entrepreneurship

Aneesh Agarwal ‘17
An inventor and an entrepreneur, Agarwal loves biology and imagines a career in the medical field, but with an innovative twist.

On his interests in the medical field, research, and entrepreneurism:
Agarwal spent last summer working in a lab at Duke University through NCSSM’s Mentorship program, which only contributed to his ever-increasing passion for work in these fields, he says. “I went to the lab at Duke from 8 in the morning until sometimes five in the afternoon, every weekday,” says Agarwal. “That was really interesting because it was the first time I was able to do hands-on research with my professor, who is actually an alumnus of the school. That was a really interesting experience personally and educationally and developmentally.”

His research experience was one of most influential pieces of his time at NCSSM, an opportunity, he says, “I was only afforded by being here.” The lab where he currently works typically doesn’t allow high school students under the age of 18.

As for entrepreneurship, “that interest started in the 10th grade, right before I came [to NCSSM]. But doing competitions [like Conrad Innovation Summit and the UNC Social Entrepreneurship Conference] with like-minded peers who have interests in doing things outside of and apart from school really enhanced how I was able to interact with them, learn from them, them learn from me, and work on these entrepreneurial projects.” Agarwal hopes to spend this coming summer doing an internship at a biotech startup in Research Triangle Park. He hopes to attend Stanford in the fall.


Favorite class at NCSSM:
AP Biology, both for the challenge (they were taught from MIT OpenCourseWare, and held to the same standards used at MIT for introductory biology courses) and for the content. “What I learned was to appreciate all the mechanisms, all the workings of a cell, that lie below the surface of what you read in the textbook and how to understand it. That’s really increased my interest in biology and encouraged me to pursue my research [in cancer therapy and personalized medicine] this year at Duke.”

Best tip for avoiding procrastination:
Get things done early in the day. “I’ve always been an early riser,” he says. “Those morning hours are really productive for me.”

Dream job:
Agarwal says his dream job is “probably a career in medicine, but maybe with a tie-in with entrepreneurship and business.” His interests in the field have been influenced in part by his parents’ careers in the medical field, as well as by his research in cancer therapy and personalized medicine at Duke University as part of NCSSM’s Mentorship program.

What do you do for stress relief:
“Rather than considering it as just work, I really find innovation and entrepreneurship as a passion of mine, and I’m always thinking about how can we, how can I, improve things around us, whether it’s business-minded, social-minded, anything. How can we improve what’s around us? That thought is really relaxing for me.

I actually have an inventor’s notebook. It’s a journal in which I write these ideas, and possibly business plans, or a structure of how I can develop this. It’s a way to feed my entrepreneurial interests but also is relaxing.”

Favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon:
Working on one of his projects or business ideas; playing tennis with his sister on weekends at home, reading.

What book are you reading right now:
Elon Musk: Inventing the Future, by Ashlee Vance

Secret talent:
“It’s not much of a secret. It’s my innovation spirit.”