Debpriya Das's life can be clearly described in two parts – before and after Bioland. Beforehand, she was a Bangladeshi girl like any other, with a little low self-esteem. However, after becoming a biology teacher and establishing Bioland, she flourished. Her personal growth led her to becoming Bangladesh's first Schwarzman Scholar.
Debpriya is a recent graduate with first-class honors in Neuroscience, the 2015 Bangladesh Biology Olympiad champion, and a Rabindra Sangeet singer. Most importantly, she founded Bioland at the mere age of 19.
At that time, Debpriya was a teacher at Mastermind school. She was perplexed by the aversion her students showed towards biology; they believed that the subject required memorisation. This misconception caused numerous students to be reluctant to explore the world of biology – a subject she loved deeply.
Vowing to uproot this fear from their young minds, Debpriya decided to found Bioland. She describes the coaching centre as, "the magical Hogwarts for biofreaks, and muggles who wish to be a part of it." Aside from teaching O and A level biology, it also offers training for the International Biology Olympiad.
Like the majority of Bangladeshi girls, Debpriya was not allowed out a lot, but she believed no challenges were insurmountable if one was truly passionate about something. So, she turned half her house into a classroom and taught biology there from 8 AM to 8 PM during university holidays. Aside from achieving praiseworthy results, her students also grew to love and appreciate the subject.
Debpriya's passion carried her the rest of the way, through her higher studies at The University of Melbourne, National University of Singapore plus Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Even as she became Bangladesh's first Schwarzman Scholar, she wished to expand the organisation by collaborating with universities at home and abroad to improve education and research in the biosciences.
Even after her photo was listed alongside other fifth class Schwarzman Scholars in the New York Times, for days, Debpriya could not believe it was real.
Before receiving the scholarship she surpassed a daunting series of tasks. Out of more than 4,700 candidates, 400 were invited to interview in Beijing, London, New York or Bangkok – all-expenses paid. They interviewed before panels comprised of: CEOs, government officials, university presidents, journalists, and non-profit executives, among others.
Of those 400, only 145 scholars were selected – through a rigorous and thorough application process designed to identify academic ability, leadership potential and strength of character.
"I think more Bangladeshi students should try to apply for these, no matter how low the acceptance rate is," Debpriya urged, explaining the honor and the perks of such a prestigious scholarship.
Once admitted, Schwarzman Scholars pursue a Master's degree in Global Affairs. They also have the opportunity to take elective courses in a variety of disciplines at Schwarzman College, as well as from other departments at Tsinghua University. Scholars are taught by a cadre of leading international faculty with frequent guest lectures from prominent global thought leaders.
Schwarzman Scholars receive a comprehensive scholarship including: tuition fees, room and board, travel to-and-from Beijing at the beginning and end of the academic year, in-country study tours, course books and supplies, health insurance, plus a stipend of $4,000 for personal expenses. Schwarzman Scholars is the single largest philanthropic effort ever undertaken in China by largely international donors.