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Engineering freshman Sona Dadhania was chosen as Cards Against Humanity’s Science Ambassador for this year.

Credit: Julio Sosa

One Penn freshman can now pursue and share her love of science thanks to an unlikely ally — Cards Against Humanity.

Engineering freshman Sona Dadhania was recently chosen as this year’s Cards Against Humanity Science Ambassador. The card game company, marketed as “a party game for horrible people” and known for its crude and unusual antics like selling a box of bull feces literally labeled “Bullshit” on Black Friday, offered her a full four-year scholarship to earn her STEM degree.

Despite its branding, CAH is known for its philanthropic acts. Since 2012 it has raised nearly $4 million to support various charities like DonorsChoose, which helps underfunded classrooms, and Worldbuilders, which partners with Heifer International to help impoverished communities across the globe (that’s where the money from “Bullshit” went). The Science Ambassador Scholarship will be funded by proceeds from a science-themed expansion pack of cards sold on the company’s website, which so far total $871,209.

Dadhania was chosen from a pool of over 1,000 undergraduate and soon-to-be-undergraduate applicants. The application, which opened up in November, asked students to submit a personal video explaining a topic in science that they are passionate about, which was judged by a panel of 57 female scientists. Dadhania’s video talked about nanotechnology — a topic that she learned about and gained interest in through her chemistry class at Penn.

Nanoparticles are small particles that range in size from one to 100 nanometers. What makes the topic of this nanoscale so unique is that materials change properties at this microscopic level — for example, at the nanoscale, gold particles aren’t even gold-colored. This fact can be used to develop advancements in medicine and engineering, like helping heal paralysis or removing tumors.

Dadhania pointed to Penn professor Shu Yang, who is using nanotechnology to create a new material that changes into different colors based on the amount of force applied to it. Yang is using the material to create bike helmets that can potentially help detect concussions.

“Sona was a great candidate from the very first round of judging,” said board member of Cards Against Humanity Veronica Berns in a press release. “Her video explained difficult concepts in nanotechnology in a creative, visual way that made them simple to understand without feeling condescending. That's a very hard thing to do, and Sona made it look easy. I can tell she is a very talented young scientist, and I'm so happy that we will get to throw a spotlight on the work she is doing in the coming years.”

As Ambassador, Dadhania will be sharing her love of science by continuing to create videos for CAH’s YouTube channel. Next semester, she is aiming to post one or two videos explaining the working mechanisms behind complex topics in science that people have heard about but may not fully understand — such as how bulletproof vests work.

Dadhania expressed her gratitude towards the company and said that their history of supporting charitable causes shows that companies can have a meaningful impact and contribute to causes even if their products don’t necessarily relate to those topics.

Many CAH board members have STEM backgrounds, and the underrepresentation of women in the field was a problem they saw firsthand. This inspired them to create the scholarship to give women a platform to share topics they care about and increase visibility of women in the field.

Dadhania noticed this problem as well in some of her science classes in high school. Her advice for girls pursuing STEM is to be confident in their abilities.

“Don’t be intimidated. Regardless of who you are or what you are, what’s important is how much you know and your ability as a science major or an engineer. If you focus on that, you’ll go far,” Dadhania said.

She also encouraged all students to always take advantage of opportunities offered to them.

“When I applied for this, I wasn’t expecting anything out of it at all, but I ended up winning. So no matter how unlikely things might seem, if opportunities present themselves, make sure to go for it because there’s always the chance that you can get it," Dadhania said. 

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