Last year Jennani Jayaram battled the flu for two whole months. Jennani has juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a chronic illness that can turn her life upside down when it flares up.
“I will have pain in most of my elbows, shoulders, fingers, toes, hips and knees – almost all of my joints,” she says. “The medicine I take to control it turns off my immune system, and I am very susceptible to other illnesses.”
Despite her illness, Jennani has become a mathematical superstar and a violin virtuoso. She spent the summer at Brown University studying numbers theory – a branch of mathematics devoted to the study of whole numbers – and while she will be a senior at Plant High School next year, she will be taking Calculus 3 in the College of Engineering at USF.
“My dad loves math,” she says. “It has always been a special connection between us and is one of my favorite things to do. He used to quiz me on my times tables on car trips.”
And unlike most parents, Jennani’s dad didn’t stop at 10. He had her memorize them up to 20.
Jennani would like to get more girls interested in math and science. Last year she volunteered at a chess camp and was disheartened to see so few girls in attendance so she, “took them under [her] wing and made them feel comfortable.”
Music is also an integral part of her life. She has been playing violin for about 8 ½ years. This past winter she was part of the Pinellas Youth Orchestra, where she played a violin solo.
“Listening to music makes you more aware of detail,” she says. “For me both music and math are an important part of my life. Both are very beautiful.”