The TEDxPeachtree team spoke with some of the upcoming speakers at TEDxPeachtree on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 at the Rialto Center for the Arts to dig beneath the surface of their biographies. In this edition of Beyond the Bio, we spoke with Tejas Athni, a high school student and neuroscience explorer. Here’s what we found:

When asked that typical icebreaker question, “Share one fun/interesting fact about you,” what fact do you usually use?

An interesting fact about me is that I run a CPR education non-profit organization devoted to teaching the public on basic life-saving skills. For my efforts, the American Heart Association named me the CPR and BLS Instructor of the Month in November 2016.

What’s your favorite memory from your childhood?

My favorite memory comes from when I was 4 years old, attending Montessori of Macon daycare. I used to love the outside playground, hated washing the dishes, and adored the graham crackers that we were given as a midday snack.

If you could have any celebrity as a sibling, who would you pick and why?

Neil deGrasse Tyson would be an amazing sibling to have. His expertise in astrophysics along with his uncanny ability to communicate extremely difficult concepts to the layperson is a skill that I admire. Besides, who wouldn’t want his natural narrator voice booming through the living room of their house?

Who’s your role model? Why?

My two main role models are Dr. John Sampson, Chairman of Neurosurgery at Duke University, and Dr. Steven Schachter, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Sampson earlier this year. He is one of the leading pioneers of cancer immunotherapy, revolutionizing brain tumor treatment. As a neurosurgeon and a neuro-oncology researcher, Dr. Sampson combines both practicing clinical medicine and bench research. Such a synthesis of various scientific disciplines is very intriguing, one which I aspire to achieve.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Schachter during my presentation at a medical conference. His line of work involves epilepsy neurology and plant therapeutics’ ability to fight tumors. The similarity between his work and mine is a source of inspiration for me and where I can take my work in the future. Dr. Schachter’s humble and down-to-Earth attitude underscores his amazing life accomplishments. Over the last few months, he has slowly become a valuable advisor to me and has offered me invaluable guidance — the true definition of a mentor.

If you hadn’t  gone down your path with scientific research, what would you be aiming for as a career instead?

If I hadn’t gone down the path of scientific research, I believe I would still be pursuing a career in the biological sciences, either as a medical researcher or a physician. However, I don’t think I would have the same motivation or drive without my current research experience.

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