Dinner Meeting with Dominic M. Mao (second from left), Lecturer in Molecular and Cellular Biology, in Delhi.

On January 21, 2019, Mittal Institute India Director Sanjay Kumar and Executive Director Meena Hewett met with Dr. Dominic M. Mao, Lecturer in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and his student over a dinner hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Ranji and Prama Bhandari, founding members of the Harvard Club of India.

Dr. Mao recently spearheaded an educational workshop as part of the Program for Scientifically Inspired Leadership (PSIL) for a group of high school students in Imphal, Manipur, and brought several Harvard undergraduate students with him to teach a week’s worth of lessons. The workshop consisted of presentations, working groups, and collaborative projects about civic engagement in local communities.

“The goal of the program was to make available to the students in Manipur one of Harvard’s most valuable resources: some of its best minds,” Dr. Mao explains. “PSIL brought together three groups of students — Harvard students (the teachers), college students from Manipur interested in pursuing teaching as a career (the teaching assistants), and high school students from Manipur (the participants) — who all learned from each other. The Harvard students developed and taught a curriculum based on the scientific method, focusing on critical thinking, problem solving, and public speaking. The teaching assistants helped tweak the activities to make them relevant for the region and co-facilitated all the sessions.”

The program was a success, and the students were excitedly engaged the entire week. Dr. Mao recounts one particularly heartwarming moment: “During the talent show there was a power cut, and I ran outside to try and get the generator started. As I exited the room, I heard clapping and cheering as though the show never stopped. I ran back inside to see many students holding up their phones in flashlight mode pointed at the performer so he could continue his act!”

At the dinner, Dr. Mao discussed how his vision was to create an ongoing cultural, intellectual, and educational exchange between Harvard students and high school students in Imphal. The overall goal of the program was to empower the Manipuri students to pursue innovative and socially impactful learning and leadership. Both the Harvard students and the Manipuri students gained a lot from the week of interaction, as was evident from the effusive feedback that the students gave.

The discussion highlighted the importance of focusing on non-mainstream regions in India and providing these communities with international exposure and exchange. We look forward to a potential collaboration between the Mittal Institute and Dominic Mao’s leadership project in Manipur again in the future.