One of five 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars from Illinois is Jui Khankari, a senior from Hinsdale Central High School, who last year received the prestigious Diana Award for his work in building an intelligence platform artificial for young learners.
This year, there are 161 fellows from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Department of Defense schools in Germany and Japan.
In a press release, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the 2022 Presidential Scholars represent America’s best and brightest.
“Through one of the most trying times in our country’s history and in the midst of our recovery from the pandemic, our students have once again demonstrated their strength and that they have so much to contribute to our country. Thanks to them, I know America’s future is bright,” Cardona said.
Khankari, 18, said she was “surprised” to get the honour, even though her CV is certainly checked. The Oak Brook teenager is in the top 2% of her class, scored a perfect 36 on the ACT exam and has been accepted to 18 universities including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford.
“Making the decision was arguably harder than applying – I should turn down Harvard or Princeton, or MIT!” Khankari said.
Due to COVID-19, Khankari was unable to make it to campus until his senior year, which put additional pressure on his decision time.
“At Yale I met a Nobel laureate, at Princeton I attended graduate school and walked the same halls as Einstein and Richard Feynman, I was a kid in a candy store all time,” Khankari said.
Khankari ultimately chose Stanford, attributing the institution’s strength in computer science and artificial intelligence, and due to a support system already built into the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) where she completed an internship l ‘last summer.
“And that’s obviously not the deciding factor, but the weather [in California] and the fact that they had a surf club was the icing on the cake,” she said. “If you want to say good words to my parents, I’m trying to buy a board and go surfing.”
Khankari made a point of saying that she’s not buried in textbooks all day and that she makes time to do things she loves, like rollerblading and swimming. And her mom and dad’s “laissez-faire” parenting style gave her the space to become a well-rounded student, she said.
“They never pushed me academically or extracurricularly and allowed me to explore and have fun throughout middle school and high school,” Khankari explained. “That works.”
Khankari noted that her mother drove her an hour each way to rowing practice, in addition to supporting her throughout the tennis and science olympiads. Khankari said that throughout school there was never an emphasis on “being the best” or having the highest GPA. And actually — “my dad still hasn’t figured out how to check my grades,” laughed Khankari.
“I think our main role as parents was to support Jui in whatever she needed and offer advice when she asked rather than telling her what to do,” her father, Kishore Khankari, said. “[Jui] pursues everything on her own as much as possible and does not care whether she will succeed or not.
Hinsdale Central School counselor Michael Litton said Khankari’s enthusiasm for learning was “wonderful to behold”.
“I remember our first meeting thinking, wow, his range of talent is amazing,” Litton said. “Students with Jui’s work ethic take a personal interest in seeking activities that expand their skills and experience the benefits of a challenge. Jui’s collaborative and curious nature adds to her visionary talents. I truly believe that she will use her educational gifts for the betterment of society.
In early 2020, Khankari launched AInspire, a nonprofit organization aimed at teaching the applications of artificial intelligence, or AI, to students of all ages and backgrounds. Operating entirely on donations, Khankari said AInspire has since served around 26,000 students in 58 countries with virtual workshops, videos and other online methods.
At the Stanford Institute for HAI, Khankari worked with Professors Michael E. Moseley and Greg Zaharchuk to study AI in medical imaging, including how AI can reduce treatment time associated with stroke. Khankari said his all-female leadership team at AInspire is working on an upcoming workshop focused on those same topics.
The organization’s other training sessions cover topics such as Intro to AI + Biology, AI + Bioinformatics, and Intro to AI + Biology + Art. Some workshops, like AI + Bioinformatics, recommend prior coding experience, but many, like Intro to AI + Biology, require no coding experience.
“I really wanted to dispel this stereotype that AI is something that is hard to break into or too complex for anyone to understand,” Khankari explained, adding that she was excited to unleash the potential of her organization. “I just hope the focus of AInspire will grow and change as I learn more about AI and AI interactions.”
As Khankari prepares for her move to Stanford later this summer, she looks forward to an upcoming virtual ceremony celebrating the Presidential Class of 2022.
Since 1964, the United States Presidential Scholars Program has honored more than 7,900 of the nation’s top students. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. And in 2015, the program was again expanded to recognize students who demonstrate ability and achievement in vocational and technical education.