Kavitha Gopal – breaking a stereotype to become the first girl student to win the President of India Prize

What if you were studying in one of the premier institutes of learning in the country, like the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras? It would be really good. What if you were conferred with the prestigious President of India Gold Medal, an honor bestowed upon a student for outstanding performance? That would be sensational! But on top of it if you were a girl who’d pipped a whole batch of male students to receive it from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself at the 56th convocation of the institution, would you not be having your head in the clouds?

That is precisely what Kavitha Gopal felt when she received the President’s Gold Medal in front of an august crowd watching the event.

What an achievement!

Having procured a stupendous CGPA of 9.95 in B. Tech. Computer Sciences Engg., she won two other top awards along with the President’s Gold Medal - the Bharat Ratna M Visvesvaraya Memorial Prize and the B.Ravichandran Memorial Prize for the highest CGPA though shared with another boy of B. Tech (Electrical Engg.).  The crowning glory was the fact that she broke a prevailing tradition of males always winning the President’s Medal and became the first female in the institution’s history to do so.

The beauty of it was while she was excited at having achieved a hat-trick of successes, her real excitement lay in having graduated from a premier institute with flying colors and her plans of doing ‘coding’ in the ‘future’.

How she reached here

Kavitha Gopal is currently working as a software engineer with Google India. She had graduated with a B. Tech degree in Computer Science and Engineering on September 30, 2019. She had done her schooling from the Atomic Energy Central School in Anupuram and later at the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Kalpakkam.

Kavitha had chosen the subject of computers in her study at the Kendriya Vidyalaya when she was in the 11th standard and was attracted to it in some uncanny way. As time progressed she developed a passion for coding.

Traditionally, the STEM field that includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics is usually dominated by male students. But like other areas in Education, more and more women have started opting for STEM disciplines.

In a competitive field like Computer Engg., standing up to the best of males studying in the same class, and getting selected by a top-notch organization like Google, she has indeed proven what she is capable of.

Her Academics

She had joined IIT Madras in 2015. Barging into a male-dominated bastion, she kept her academic performance at top notch, consistently winning laurels. Armed with C++, Java and a little bit of Python, the 21-year-old had also participated in and won several competitive programming contests during her course of study.

No bookworm, she also had time for other things. "I scheduled my days to include both academic prep and other interests. I used to play basketball in school and in college too, I played the sport as part of the National Sports Organization (NSO)," she adds.

What does she say about other women?

As per her there is still though a long way to go before fixing the gender ratio. "I hope that more and more women take up computer science and develop an interest for it. My batch had only 10 girls out of 60 students and this says a lot about the ratio of girls and boys taking up the subject. We need to realize that the future is going to be all about computer science. Think Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning etc."

She has automatically become an inspiration and role model for many other girls willing to take her example and strike out.  There are many others likely to follow suit not with the intention of topping their class but to become women capable of contributing their mite in a world that has not till recent times given a fair opportunity to females to prove themselves, especially in this advanced field of computer engineering.