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An educational journey that began with reading by candlelight

December 19, 2012

Santosh Adhikari of Kusunde, NepalDALLAS (SMU) – When Santosh Adhikari graduated from SMU on Dec. 15 with Bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics, he celebrated a journey that began with reading physics books by candlelight in his village of Kusunde, Nepal.

The son of a math teacher, Adhikari grew up in a village in northern Nepal only accessible by foot. When he swam in the nearby river, he wondered why rocks were lighter underwater than they were outside of the water. To satisfy his curiosity, he asked his father to bring him books about great scientists when he traveled to the nearest city. Adhikari’s village had no electricity, so he read the books about Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton by candlelight.

His parents sent him at age 14 to high school in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, an eight-hour walk. He rented a room, prepared his own meals and lived on his own while he attended high school, visiting his village just once a year.

Family in Dallas drew him to Texas where he attended community college, then earned one of SMU’s 10 full-tuition community college transfer scholarships. As an undergraduate at SMU, Adhikari published research in a scientific journal about the most sophisticated science experiment in the world, the CERN particle collider. He and SMU physics professor Simon Dalley studied data for new evidence of the “God particle,” or Higgs boson particle. He plans to pursue a Master’s degree, then Ph. D. in physics, with long range plans to open a research laboratory in Nepal.

In addition to a diploma, SMU’s Department of Physics traditionally presents its graduates with a book about physics. Adhikari’s physics library now includes another book about a great scientist, the three-volume physics classic, The Feynman Lectures on Physics (Basic Books, 1964), written by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman.

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