When Hari Sowrirajan was 13 years old, he had an idea for a science fair project.
"I decided that a cool project would be to do something about nanoparticles," Sowrirajan said.
Three years ago, the eighth grader sent an email to the nanotoxicology lab at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy on the Anschutz Campus in Aurora. He wanted to do actual nanoparticle research for his project.
"I think that's probably the first email we've gotten from a middle school student," Dr. Jonathan Shannahan said. "That's probably the last email we've gotten from a middle school student."
Shannahan is a research instructor at CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and also serves as Sowrirajan's mentor.
"We train him like we do any new student that starts the lab and he's caught on and been rather successful," Shannahan said.
Sowrirajan is now a 16-year-old sophomore at Cherry Creek High School. He still does research at the lab because of a fascination with the virus-sized particles that can manipulated by man.
"We can load drugs on nanoparticles," Sowrirajan said. "That's why they're being used in medicine because they can interact with our cells directly."
Normally, this work is being done by graduate students. Sowrirajan is just happy he has access to cutting edge research.
"Nanotechnology and nanoparticles, it's tough to do them at home," Sowrirajan said. "You can't really buy nanoparticles at the supermarket."
His mentor says that this teenage boy is getting a big jumpstart on college.
"My first research experience experience was in undergrad in college and his first research experience is in middle school," Shannahan said.
When Sowrirajan is not in the lab, he does play on Cherry Creek's soccer team while also running track. The 16-year-old says he still does what other teenagers do.
"You also have to have a balance," Sowrirajan said.
His work is sound enough to have been officially published as part of a research project led by Dr. Shannahan.
"As we've gone forward, it's gotten more and more complex," Shannahan said.
But, it hasn't been too much for this high school sophomore who still doesn't know what he wants to do with his future despite all of his work in the lab.
"I personally am a very strong math student," Sowrirajan said. "I haven't really chosen anything right now."