The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School


The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School


The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School


Vishnu M. ‘26 Wins 3 Gold Medals at International Earth Science Olympiad


In late August — the week before school started — Vishnu M. ‘26 stared into the souls of over thousands of cells in an excel sheet in order to extract data. The subject of his study? Dirt. Most of us pay just as much attention to it as we do to the fact the sky is blue, but as Vishnu sees it, everything from a soil’s acidity to its number of earthworms per cubic meter tells a story. And he certainly turned his soil analysis into a story: three gold medals at the International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO) as a freshman. Hear more about his experience through his own words below.


Agastya V. ‘25 (AV): What motivated your interest in Earth Science? What motivated you to pursue it?


Vishnu M. ‘26 (VM): As I started getting exposed to the many different facets of Earth’s systems, particularly the complex interactions between different spheres of life, I was really just hooked into the subject. I’ve also been involved in environmental activism for a long time through the Bellevue YouthLink program, organizing community climate summits, testifying on the behalf of climate-related bills and budget allocations, and working to increase climate awareness in our community. So earth science was a natural fit.


AV: Which branches of earth science are especially appealing to you? 

The subject of his study? Dirt.

VM: The branch of earth science that I’m most interested in is meteorology, the study of earth’s atmosphere and weather conditions. I feel like it’s the one that has the biggest impact on our day to day lives, and I find it fascinating to learn about how these weather patterns are created.


AV: How has your study of meteorology, or modeling of weather systems, been impacted by anthropogenic emissions?


VM: I personally haven’t done much meteorological modeling myself, but I do generally follow active meteorological models by the United States government. What I’ve seen is that there’s higher flux in the Earth’s atmosphere. Changes in it occur much faster just because the increased energy in the atmosphere leads to a more active circulation of air and more active storm systems.


AV: What was your experience like on the days leading up to the week of IESO contests? What was your experience with the contests themselves? 


VM: There was definitely a lot of preparation involved in the days leading up to the week of the competition, but there was also a lot of connecting. Before the Olympiad began, I created a communal discord server where people from around the globe could interact, play games together, just talk about life — almost pulling the Olympiad outside of our discussions so that we could talk as friends.


AV: Did anyone from those high-level teams stand out to you? Were any nations particularly interesting? 


VM: I think that, given the current war between Ukraine and Russia and everything that has impacted the live of people in Ukraine, the fact that we were able to see people there and know that they were committed to continuing to learn about the world, to continue their interests, and to create positive change in our world was all really inspiring to see. 


AV: What was the most difficult part of the IESO examination and project process? 


VM: The most difficult part started before the event itself. The National Team Field Investigation saw national teams pick an in-depth earth science subject and conduct a hands-on investigation about it. The U.S. team has people everywhere from Washington to Florida, so the hands-on portion was really difficult. We collected our own soil samples and then analyzed them on a very limited budget — along the way, we did have to learn some extremely complex statistics. 


AV: What was the specific issue, and how did you perform your soil analysis? 


VM: My group was focused more on the relationships between soil pH and soil texture. We had to find test kits, create our own procedures and run our own experiments. For texture, we had to conduct a really complicated test involving shaking the soil with a detergent mixture to isolate different grain sizes. Even though it was hectic and we made last-minute edits, we ended up pulling through.


AV: You mentioned that you were part of some environmental groups that lobby governments and businesses. Did attending Lakeside have any effects on that experience?

The Earth is the perfect place for life.

VM: I’ve been involved in this long before I’ve come to Lakeside and, considering that it’s centered in Bellevue rather than Seattle, it may not be as accessible for students close to Lakeside, but for anyone who does live in the Bellevue area, I personally believe that Bellevue YouthLink is a great way to get involved in the community because we do so much to help improve the various aspects of youth life.


AV: If we want to escape a warming Earth, what are the odds that we could terraform Mars? And what technology would we be using to do so? 


VM: Obviously, I’m more of an advocate for preserving the planet that we already have. But if it comes to the worst, I feel like the biggest challenge that we need to address is bringing supplies to Mars. Humans rely on oxygen and water, and it’s really hard to transport those. The Earth is the perfect place for life. Everything just came together perfectly from the geology, the hydrology with the oceans, the atmospheric chemistry, and its position relative to the sun.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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