Josh and Anushka Sanyal have their own interests and passions, but the twins are nonetheless continuing along parallel paths as they both head to Stanford University in the fall.
The Los Altos residents, who graduated from Homestead High School last week, say they didn’t intend to go to the same school, but also weren’t opposed to it. The siblings are both pursuing STEM careers in different fields: Josh intends to major in computer science, while Anushka plans to study human biology and become a doctor. Stanford has strong programs in both areas, Anushka said.
“We both got in, and then we pretty immediately knew we’d both be going,” Josh added.
Anushka said she “vividly” remembers the moment they found out that they were both accepted, because they were on the same Zoom call for school. To avoid interrupting other people on the call, she tried to read her brother’s facial expression to see if he also got good news, and then they started texting each other to confirm they both got in.
Although the twins didn’t think they’d end up at the same college, both say they are looking forward to it.
“It’s interesting that it came out this way,” Anushka said. “I’m excited – I think it’ll be nice to have a familiar face on the campus.”
Throughout high school, the pair overlapped in some activities but diverged in others. Both were on Homestead’s speech and debate team – with Josh competing in debate and Anushka in speech. They also both tutored other students in the school’s academic center and each did research in labs at Stanford.
However, they also had unique areas of interest. Anushka wants to go to medical school, and has a particular interest in neurobiology. During high school, she researched neurodegenerative diseases and worked at a senior care facility. Josh plans to pursue computer science and was the president of both the math and programming clubs on campus.
Passion for learning
Shawn Southerd, a math club adviser who taught both Anushka and Josh in AP Statistics, said he has been struck by how bright and talented the two are, while also being collaborative and working well with others.
“It’s not just that they’re good at math, or they’re good at school, or they’re great students,” Southerd said. “It’s that they’re also well rounded – they have the people skills, they’re very kind and respectful.”
As the president of the math and programming clubs, Josh worked with other students to prepare for competitions, where they went up against other schools.
“It’s really cool to be a part of representing our school at these competitions and being able to work with each other,” Josh said of his teammates. “It’s really fun preparing and getting to work with them, because we’re all also friends outside of math.”
Southerd has known Josh since his freshman year and said he’s consistently seen how Josh is competitive, while also wanting to help and support others.
For Anushka, her interest has always been in learning about the intricate systems that make up the human body. In particular, she’s fascinated by all that we still don’t know about the body, and has conducted research on neurodegenerative diseases.
“I just love the unknown,” Anushka said. “And there’s so much unknown in the nervous system and in neurobiology.”
Starting the summer after her freshman year, she began volunteering at a local senior home in the memory support unit, working with residents afflicted with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“It was this very humbling experience, because I was getting to know a lot of them and hear about their rich backgrounds … (but) seeing how over time this disease is eroding at their personality, at who they are,” Anushka said. “It’s been really heartbreaking.”
As a doctor, she said she looks forward to both being at the forefront of learning about new concepts, while also getting to work directly with patients.
Homestead teacher Dara Alleyne-Levy said she was impressed with the way Anushka worked with others when she taught her AP Biology as a sophomore, a class that’s typically meant for upperclassmen. Before quizzes and tests, Alleyne-Levy said there’d be a group of juniors and seniors huddled around Anushka’s desk studying and asking questions.
“She is happy to help anybody,” Alleyne-Levy said. “She’s just truly passionate about learning.”
Southerd similarly said that both Josh and Anushka are genuinely interested in what they do and that he looks forward to seeing their future accomplishments.
“I hope those two stay in touch with me, because they’re going to do some amazing things – and I don’t say that lightly,” Southerd said.