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Linguistics and AI Speak to Aneesh Patnaik '21

It always leads back to Legos. The plastic building blocks have launched many careers in architecture, engineering, and computer science, but for Aneesh Patnaik, they were a constant in his childhood. “I loved Legos as a kid,” he says.

Legos paved the way to his interest in robotics, something Aneesh got involved with in elementary school and continued when he enrolled at Hun in eighth grade. Joining the robotics team was one of the first things he did when moving to the Upper School. At the time, he was one of three students who had experience. “We were a rookie team, but at our first competition in our freshman year, we did really well.” Robotics became an integral part of his Hun experience. “It’s one of my favorite communities and the members became some of my closest friends,” he says. 

Another community where he found his voice was as a member of Voice Male, the all-male a cappella group. Aneesh joined as a sophomore with no prior training. “I just enjoyed singing and thought, ‘why not try out?’ and I got to develop my voice technically and build my confidence.” 

Aneesh also hit the courts, playing on the varsity tennis team. His real love, however, is the classroom, with computer science, physics, and BC calculus ranking among his top classes. He particularly enjoys hands-on learning and is currently building a piano in his digital logic circuits course. 

Code isn’t the only language he enjoys; Aneesh furthered his interest in Soviet-era Russia by spending quarantine learning Russian. It is an interest spurred by reading Animal Farm and 1984 in eighth grade. “I’m not particularly fond of reading but I found those books just captivating,” he says. He also took a course on Stalinism last summer and pored through photos of Siberia in the digital collection of the British Library. 

Next year, Aneesh plans to marry his passion for computer science and linguistics at Dartmouth College. His future plans include researching the development of computational linguistics, or how computers understand speech and language.