Stony Brook University freshman Ruchi Shah will take the stage at the Forbes Women's Summit in Manhattan Thursday as its youngest participant, representing a younger generation of women passionate about STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math.
Shah, 19, who was in the spotlight as a high schooler for her discovery of a low-cost, all-natural mosquito repellent, will be one of 200 women attending the event.
"I'm just really excited and really humbled to be a part of these two days," Shah said, "and to have the opportunity to collaborate and talk about issues and ways we can make change . . . Everyone here is a trailblazer in their field." The summit focuses on the role women can play in solving society's difficult problems.
The two-day event, which began last night, will feature women business leaders, artists, entrepreneurs, politicians and heads of nonprofits and nongovernment organizations.
Shah, a Ronkonkoma native who graduated from Sachem North High School, said she plans to speak about her journey toward discovering the repellent, which was first inspired when she saw lines of people outside a clinic in India as she was visiting her uncle, who had dengue fever -- an ailment transmitted by mosquitoes more common in tropical climates.
"I'll never forget that long line of people . . . I knew I had to help them," she said. "I was thinking that a lot of people in developing countries can't afford mosquito repellent . . . so I wanted to come up with one that was all-natural and inexpensive." Shah is currently trying to find investors to help her patent the repellent.
Her talk will be a prelude to a panel discussion on how to continue engaging youths to pursue STEM education and careers. Prominent figures on the panel will include DuPont chief executive Ellen Kullman and Susan Hockfield, president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Forbes magazine is the sponsor.