In an attempt to promote a research-driven mindset among high school students in Northeast India, a group of five young college undergraduates from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland founded the Northeastern Centre for High School Research (NECHR) in 2023.

Originating from diverse backgrounds, the founding members are: Yumi Imchen (Nagaland); Grace Tetsuo (Nagaland); Luke Rimmo Lego (Arunachal); James Ralte (Mizoram); and Jasmine Gurung (Manipur). Currently, the main members from Northeast India include the five of them along with Samwel Debbarma (Tripura) and Marina Tatin (Arunachal).

Talking to Mokokchung Times, Luke Rimmo Lego, a co-founder of NECHR, recounted how the idea for the organization took root. Luke shared that the inception of NECHR in April 2023 stemmed from conversations he and his childhood friend Yumi had during their higher secondary years in New Delhi.

Reflecting on their shared passion for science and mathematics, they lamented the limited opportunities to delve deeply into these subjects within the existing academic framework. Luke emphasized that the prevailing academic program afforded them “very little chance” to explore topics of interest thoroughly, serving as the catalyst for their inspired initiative.

Luke is now an aspiring linguist and Biomedical Engineering major at Stevens Institute of Technology, while Yumi Imchen is a Mathematics student currently studying at Princeton University.

According to Luke, while a few opportunities for high school research exposure do exist, most of them come from universities in the US and UK, and they tend to be expensive, often costing upwards of USD 6,000 or more.

“Therefore, currently, NEHCR is not charging any tuition fees for our students. We want to promote research by fostering critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and research skills instead of having kids rely solely on rote learning – where you learn everything for a day, and then forget it after exams,” the NEHCR team said.

“It’s helpful because even India’s new education policy included a research component in the curriculum, and students need to be involved in this from a young age,” shared Luke, adding, “Research is what drives innovation, and the next set of scientists and pioneers should come from the northeast.”

Currently, the NEHCR includes 12 board members from around the Northeast, four from the rest of mainland India, and 7 others from other countries (Canada, the US, Singapore, South Korea, and Mexico).
NEHCR offers two types of programs: a mentorship initiative where university students guide high schoolers in conducting literature reviews and field research, and a collaborative project platform where high school students assist university peers in their research endeavors.

“It serves as a mutual benefit because these high schoolers are helping the collegiate students with data scraping and finding journal articles from different sets of databases. Appropriate training is provided for them to work with data, analyze data, create PRISMA flowcharts for medical research, and summarize key findings,” added Luke.

At the same time, Luke said, the benefit for the High School student is that these students will be mentioned in the footnotes/acknowledgment section of the final manuscript. For students who make major contributions, they would even be mentioned as coauthors.

In addition to research programs, NECHR also recognizes the importance of language proficiency and offers classes in languages like Korean, Mandarin, and German. However, due to limited resources, seats in these courses are highly competitive, with a priority given to students from the Northeast.

“Although the organization is also working towards having students from different parts of the world, we want to prioritize those from the Northeast. NEHCR’s primary goal, as an organization born from the soils of the Northeast, is to improve the state of high school research among students in the region so that they can be at par with students from countries such as the US, UK, and Singapore, where they prioritize research over rote learning for national examinations,” said Luke.

Luke said they have reached out to some schools in Northeast India where St Anthony’s Higher Secondary School, Shillong has responded positively. He said, currently, they have about two Mathematics students, a student from Assam who is being taught how to read X-ray and MRI images, and one from Taiwan among a few others. He added that they have just started to reach out to the schools in the Northeast.

Interested high schoolers have been highly encouraged to apply by visiting: NEHCR LinkedIn (linkedin.com/company/nehcr/) and NEHCR Website (tasumrocky.wixsite.com/northeastern-centre).
Background about the founders and board members

Luke Rimmo Lego, Biomedical Engineering and Data Science, Arunachal: Luke is an aspiring linguist and Biomedical Engineering major at Stevens Institute of Technology. He is focused not only on research on the Tani language of Arunachal to preserve it but also on working on the development of tissue-engineered constructs for vascular regeneration, using biomimetic principles, and understanding the role of inflammatory cells in atherosclerosis progression. He can be reached at tasumrocky@gmail.com.

Yumi Imchen, Mathematics Student, Nagaland: Her research interest primarily lies in understanding fractal geometry and structural differentiation involving fractional calculus. She is studying at Princeton University and can be reached at imchan.yumi@gmail.com.

Samwel Debbarma, Bioengineering, Tripura: His studies and works on Northeast India primarily focus on environmental aspects. He is currently pursuing his graduation in Biotechnology from NIT Agartala. He can be reached via email at samweldb3@gmail.com.

Grace Tetsuo, Medicine, Nagaland: She is currently pursuing her MBBS from the University of Sydney and is also focused on topics surrounding oncology and CRISPR technologies. Email: luion683@gmail.com.

James Ralte, Chemistry, Mizoram: He is currently working on designing small molecule inhibitors targeting specific protein-protein interactions involved in disease pathways of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. He is currently pursuing his degree from Ashoka University. He can be reached at raltejam@gmail.com.

Jasmine Gurung, International Relations, Manipur: She is currently studying Politics at DU, Rajdhani College. Her focus is primarily on understanding the Impact of Non-State Actors on Governance and Development in Northeast India. She can be reached at jasminegurun73@gmail.com.

Marina Tatin, Nursing, Arunachal: She is currently studying nursing at Northeast Christian University and is also involved with the conservation of the Siang River, for which she received a grant from the Remmer Family Foundation and MCN (United Nations). Her research focus is primarily on Patient Health in the northeast with a core focus on pediatric health.

Mokokchung Times

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