ESUMS junior 1 of 3 in world with perfect score on AP chemistry exam
Prastik Mohanraj, 16, knew he had done well on the advanced placement chemistry exam as a sophomore, but something wasn’t sitting right with him as his time drew to a close.
“I thought I made an error, so I raced back to fix it,” he said. As the test was ending, he said he found a miscalculation on a question about acids and bases and fixed it.
It wasn’t until this February, nearly a year later, that the Engineering and Science University Magnet School student was surprised by a different type of calculation: he was one of three students in the world to get a perfect score on the exam, only 0.002 percent of all test takers.
Although ESUMS is located in West Haven on the University of New Haven’s campus, it is a New Haven magnet school. The school, which moved from Hamden to its current 122,000-square-foot location in 2017, was established through a collaboration between two city planning boards, New Haven’s public school system and a university.
Mohanraj’s mother, Vani, said her son’s early interest was math, but his fascination with science began to deepen when he was in the sixth grade. The name and description of ESUMS alone were enough to encourage the Ansonia resident to apply for the school’s lottery.
“We want him to take every available opportunity,” Vani said.
Mohanraj said his teacher, Jeremiah Davila, helped him considerably with the subject. As a freshman, Mohanraj took an independent study under his teacher’s guidance.
“He really pushed me to get that perfect score,” he said.
Although he has a perfect score under his belt, Mohanraj refuses to let himself peak: he’s taking AP courses in physics, government, psychology, language and composition, computer science and calculus as a junior. He wants to get a perfect score on those exams, as well.
His recent academic paper, “Parametric Equations of the Expansion of a Closed Universe with Torsion,” was published in the Cornell University Library Journal.
Vani Mohanraj said her son is so humble that he didn’t tell his family until after The College Board mailed a certificate.
“He didn’t think it’s a big deal,” she said. “We as a family are so proud of him.”
District officials also consider Mohanraj’s story to be a positive reflection of the city’s schools.
“Prastik has been an exemplary science student for several years, having won top awards at the New Haven and Connecticut Science Fairs, as well as being part of award winning STEM teams from ESUMS,” said Richard Therrien, K-12 science supervisor in New Haven Public Schools. “The science department is incredibly proud of his AP Chemistry achievement, and feels it reflects as well on the dedication of all his previous science, mathematics and engineering teachers. ... We are very proud of Prastik’s accomplishments.”
Mohanraj said enrolling at ESUMS has helped to bolster his lifelong passion for biology and chemistry.
“I’ve always been interested in medicine and how doctors work,” he said. “I like seeing how life works at the most basic level.”
In addition to acing exams, Mohanraj has also spent years submitting projects to science fairs.
After graduation, Mohanraj said he’d like to be a chemical or biomedical engineer, although he has not ruled out going to medical school to become a doctor.