Welcome to The Science Squad. We're a Big Rapids area nonprofit dedicated to promoting scientific education and exposure for the youth of Western and Central Michigan.
Established in 2016
In early 2016, Director Arya Rao founded The Science Squad to increase interest in STEM in Mecosta and surrounding counties as a result of a prevalent lack of scientific initiatives in the area. Subsequently, The Science Squad started the first area science fair for middle and high school students, and reaches out to students around the world in similar situations through the Lecture Series.
Our goal is simple- to ensure that youth in rural areas receive adequate scientific education that may not have been provided otherwise. We hope to nurture the scientific way of thinking among all youth, in Western Michigan and elsewhere. By establishing programs that encourage scientific exploration and that introduce scientific concepts, we hope to acheive this mission.
Meet the Team
Arya Rao, Founder and Executive Director
Arya Rao is an MD-PhD candidate at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Founder and Executive Director of The Science Squad. Originally from rural Northern Michigan, she was inspired to start The Science Squad when she realized that her community and those surrounding it faced a profound lack of science education. She seeks to improve access in every possible way.
If you are interested in pursuing an internship with The Science Squad, please visit our internships page.
Neha Mani is a junior at Columbia University and the Director of Summer Programming at The Science Squad. Before undergrad, she competed in regional and international science fairs in high school which were predominated by students from specialized high schools, inspiring her to take part in this initiative to increase scientific education and research access to students who didn’t previously have it. Outside of The Science Squad, her interests in scientific outreach extend to her position as Director of Policy at the National Undergraduate Consortium for Scientific Journalism as well as Executive Director of Modulus Research, an NYC-based organization aimed at increasing student involvement in research through open-access courseware.
Samvat Yadav is a rising sophomore at Columbia University, planning to major in Neuroscience and Behavior. His childhood was spent in Princeton, West Virginia, where his interest in science began. In Princeton, he cultivated his mentorship skills through his own free tutoring program for high schoolers. Some of his hobbies are playing the piano, cooking, and making comics. He also spends time writing and editing a children’s books on science with the Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal.
Maggie Nedbalek is a rising junior at Columbia University majoring in Biomedical Engineering. In high school, she competed in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair after being inspired by her AP Research class; however, coming from a rural, low-income school in Michigan, she had little support or background to do so. This inspired her to become a research mentor, as she can now help provide high school students with the support needed to pursue their own research goals, just as her mentor once had.
Rio Black is a rising Sophomore at Tufts University, studying Biochemistry and working as an EMT. She grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts, where her interest in medicine and biological sciences began as a high schooler completing her first science fair project with the lab resources from Tufts Bioengineering department. Now on a pre-med track, her goal is to continue implanting research and engineering projects into a broader health care career. She is grateful to now return the guidance her high school mentors once gave her.