Saishree Mupparaju has always been a problem solver.
As a child, Mupparaju’s talent for untangling equations was obvious to her father, Sreeni Vasulu, a software engineer who taught her the basics of coding and nursed her curiosity about the future of technology.
“I fell in love with using my favorite subject (math) to solve logic problems — all while building an even stronger connection with my dad,” said Mupparaju, who has been named the Reading Eagle’s Berks’ Best 2022 winner in computer science.
Mupparaju said she’d never forget one moment in fourth grade when she and her father worked to decipher a particularly difficult problem for her advanced math class homework.
“We sat at it for multiple hours straight — that’s when I realized you have to sit down and grind because the answers just aren’t going to come to you,” Mupparaju said. “I realized how much dedication and passion he had for learning, and that really grew on me.”
Mupparaju’s own passion for putting in hard work to find answers fits naturally in the field of computer science, but it’s the sheer possibility of coding that intrigues her.
“All the possibilities the future has with technology, how artificial intelligence will be playing a role, I think it just has so much potential and I want to be involved in that,” Mupparaju said.
Now a senior at Exeter High School, Mupparaju, 17, applies the critical thinking techniques she sharpened in AP math and computer science courses to further her passions through an array of clubs, academic efforts and community service activities.
Mupparaju said one of her most impactful extracurricular experiences came last year when she attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, a prestigious summer enrichment program.
There, Mupparaju took various high-level science classes taught by Carnegie Mellon professors and worked with research scientists on a project that tracked artificial intelligence in social media to determine if household devices are spying on users.
“I met some of the most amazing students across the state who are passionate and have dreams as far as the sky goes,” Mupparaju said.
Mupparaju was also a part of Inspirit AI Scholars — an intensive program for high schoolers developed and taught by Stanford and MIT students and alumni — where she worked on a project focused on artificial intelligence’s effect on disease trends.
In addition, Mupparaju is involved in Novus.AI, a student-led artificial intelligence startup that programmed algorithms for a surveillance hazard detection app.
Mupparaju’s passion for problem solving also extends to society at large — she founded and leads the DoSomething club at school that organizes local community service campaigns.
Under Mupparaju’s leadership, the club has collected more than 1,000 books for Opportunity House of Reading, created a welcome pamphlet for new students, organized an International Women’s Day event and fundraised for special education projects.
Her involvement in school clubs, activities and social causes is extensive. She has competed in the regional Science Olympiad, served as captain of the Exeter’s girls varsity tennis team and president of the Mock Trial club, and received various related awards and honors. She also chaired Exeter’s Mini THON, served on the Youth Advisory Board of Berks County, and leads the student activist group Stand Together Against Racism.
Mupparaju said her main professional goal is to combine her passions for STEM and social service by taking her programming skills to law and government.
She hopes to one day start a company that would ensure emergent AI technologies are developed without racial bias and operate fairly during criminal investigations and other societal applications.
“I hope to break barriers for women of color and show young girls that they can do anything they put their minds to,” Mupparaju said.
For now, Mupparaju is headed to Carnegie Mellon, where she will study computer science as an undergraduate.