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WHS valedictorian is MIT-bound

After completing elementary school, Prithwis Mukhopadhyay made out a list with three goals.

No. 1: To immerse himself in math and science courses that provided challenge and rigor.

No. 2: To explore research fields in science until he could narrow the focus on a certain field.

No. 3: To study engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Check, check and check.

"I don't think success ever comes easy to a person," the Woodbury High School senior said. "You have to have a goal. You have to be passionate about what you're doing."

It should come as little surprise, then, that Mukhopadhyay was named this year's WHS valedictorian.

But of all those goals, becoming valedictorian was not among them.

"I do not believe in competing with my friends or peers - it somehow sounds selfish to me," Mukhopadhyay said. "I think my accomplishment of all the stated goals ... contributed me to becoming a valedictorian at WHS."

For Mukhopadhyay, who graduates with a 4.35 GPA, the big goal is curing cancer. He's been working on research projects aimed at that very goal for years.

Awards for his research have taken him as far as the White House, where - as one of the nation's select Intel scholars - he met President Obama, a "phenomenal honor," the high school senior said.

WHS Principal Linda Plante figures if anyone will cure cancer, it will be Mukhopadhyay.

"I do - I absolutely do," she said, calling him "an intellectual from the get-go."

But, she noted, Mukhopadhyay also possesses soft interpersonal skills that he uses when tutoring fellow students.

"He has a rapport," Plante said.

Mukhopadhyay said that ability is an extension of how he learns: when he helps students with math and science problems, he explains them in practical terms that can be more easily digested.

It helps when peers help each other learn, he said.

"I think that plays a key role," Mukhopadhyay said.

Meanwhile, the accomplishments keep rolling in. In recent weeks, Mukhopadhyay learned he was the first Minnesota student to win the Scholar of Distinction award for math and science in four consecutive years.

So what else keeps the interest of one of the nation's most promising students? Normal stuff, he said, like bike riding, basketball, watching "CSI" and tinkering with computers.

And learning.

He'll continue to do so in the fall at MIT, where he will study biological engineering.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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