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Steele HS prodigy's path to success

Bidhan Paudel has that air of youthful nonchalance, deceiving you into thinking he looks just like any other student you'd find strolling the halls of Byron P. Steele High School. With a wispy mustache and a lanky frame, Bidhan is still coping with youthful adolescence. Beneath that facade is a remarkable story. Bidhan, at the tender age of fifteen, is already in his senior year, ready to graduate in May an astonishing three years ahead of his peers, with a possible acceptance looming into the Ivy League school of his choice, Brown University.

 

A native of Nepal, Bidhan emigrated to the United States in 2021, along with his parents, Ram and Radha, and an older sister, Diya. Before he left his native country, he had already been accepted into its National Accelerated Neuroscience (NAN) program, having worked on it online and in person. NAN is tailored for high school students, with the intent of fostering scientific inquiry with advanced equipment and expert guidance.

 

He has developed a research proposal on “cannabidiols tenability in ameliorating neurological infirmities.” Simply put, Bidhan is part of the research on how the active ingredient in cannabis, found in the hemp plant, can promote the growth of new brain cells and reduce inflammation, improving the treatment for diseases such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, neuralgia (pain in the nerve pathways) and Dravet Syndrome. 

 

Furthermore, the research aims to enhance treatments for Neurodegenerative Diseases by specifically targeting intrinsic neuroinflammatory pathways, including NF-kappaB and Cyclooxygenase (an enzyme that helps create two important chemicals in the body: prostaglandin and thromboxane.

 

“It’s a new drug which hasn’t really been researched,” Bidhan said, adding, “It’s a relatively new herb and it regards its potential effects on neurogenesis, which is producing new cells.”  While CBD itself is not new, the interest in its therapeutic potential and the development of related products and medications have gained momentum relatively recently.

 

The Nepalese government has approved and is funding Bidhan’s research. Nearing completion, Bidhan is hopeful he can share the results of his work in academic research journals. He is also using it to buttress his academic achievements as part of his application to Brown.

 

“I aspire to contribute to the pharmaceutical industry,” said Bidhan. “I want to focus on the development of curative medicines for neurological diseases through research on Cannabidiol.

 

His interest was sparked at the age of eight, as he witnessed a good friend deal with the ravages of Dravet Syndrome (an epilepsy syndrome that begins in infancy or early childhood) and an uncle, named Dhiru, begin a precipitous decline with dementia. “I was fascinated how someone could just forget what they learned yesterday,” Bidhan said. “I wanted to know what the components were that were causing this.” 

 

 

 

Born in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and approximately 100 miles from Mount Everest, Bidhan’s family lived what he describes as a “lower middle-class'  status, where his father was a cell phone vendor and internet access vendor. For Ram Paudel, leaving his home country and putting roots down in the United States boiled down one word.

 

“Opportunity,” said Ram Paudel, using Bidhan as an interpreter. “The resources here are not comparable to anywhere else in the world. There are not a lot of universities there.” Prevalent inflation and financial challenges make it difficult, if not impossible, to secure funds for the high-cost programs and universities. Coming from a lower-middle class family, the monetary hurdles were too high for Bidhan’s family to overcome. 

 

Bidhan’s journey at SCUC actually began at Samuel Clemens High School at age 13. There he encountered Geneva Green, ESL Coordinator at the school, and a comforting harbor as he navigated a new land. Bidhan visited Green’s office regularly, as his English improved and one year later he was reclassified as English proficient.

 

“We would have conversations about what he wanted to accomplish, his family and his apprehensions,” Green said. As she learned about Nepalese culture and traditions, she would explain some American customs and how they came about. “I believe this validated his culture and the significance of some of his traditions, which he enjoyed enlightening me. Just being real and honest helped him feel comfortable and more confident in who he is.”

 

Despite the two to three year age gap with fellow seniors, Bidhan is gradually finding his voice among his peers. He is particularly fascinated by how easily high school students dive into controversial topics. “People are not afraid to share their views and they just go with it, even if they’re wrong,” he said. “The amount of knowledge you can gather with seniors because they’re more mature.”

 

Bidhan and the rest of the Paudel family have found a close-knit Nepalese community of approximately 50 strong. His American-born cousins have assimilated faster, but he is slowly catching up. He enjoys watching American football but prefers soccer as a fan of FC Barcelona. He’s even comfortable with American music, citing Eminem as his favorite rap artist. American food is bland, according to Bidhan, but he has taken a liking to mac and cheese and enjoys the bold flavors of Mexican food.

 

“American people are really nice,” he said. “I’ve never felt racism anywhere else in the country. Even if one is going to point a finger at you, there’s always going to be someone defending you.”

 

While he awaits word on whether he’ll be accepted into Brown University, Bidhan continues his walk the halls at Steele HS as an uncommon common 15-year old who aspires to become a neuroscientist and help find treatments and cures for onerous and painful diseases. Wherever he lands, he will be at home. “I want to be back in the country I came from and also in the United States,” Bidhan said.  Bidhan Paudel, and his immediate family have gratitude as a thread that defines them, cognizant of the fact their future could not be as bright as his new country. 

 

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