Neuroscience Major Shows His Brainpower with Perfect MCAT Score
Siddhartha “Sidd” Srivastava
Siddhartha “Sidd” Srivastava, a neuroscience major at The University of Texas at Dallas, felt pretty good this spring after he took a standardized exam for prospective medical students.
Though the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a “behemoth” of an exam — it takes about 7½ hours to complete — Srivastava said he worked hard to prepare for it by studying review textbooks and taking sample tests.
Still, he was astonished by the test results. Srivastava earned a perfect score of 528, a rare feat shared by fewer than 0.5 percent of those who take the test.
“I was completely stunned,” said Srivastava, who will be a senior at UT Dallas this fall.
“I liked the questions and was able to think them through, so I thought I’d get a decent score, but never a perfect score. No way!” he said. “It took awhile to sink in. It blew my mind.”
The MCAT measures problem-solving, critical thinking and written analysis skills, as well as knowledge of scientific concepts and principles. The mean score is around 500; 99 percent score 521 or under.
Srivastava’s parents, who emigrated to the U.S. from India when he was 2, had always valued education and worked to instill good study habits early. By the time Srivastava reached the third grade, his parents realized he’d gotten the hang of it.
“They knew I knew how to study, and they let me be on my own,” Srivastava said.
Srivastava credited his work as a peer tutor and peer-led team leader for organic chemistry in the UT Dallas Student Success Center with further honing his critical thinking skills.
“Sidd is exceptionally talented and has the potential to make breakthroughs in whatever he sets his mind to. I am sure he will make an excellent physician scientist and will have an important impact on medicine.”
“Without a doubt, working in the Student Success Center helped. Each student has a different way to ask the question, so I was catering my answer to five different ways of looking at the problem. That was helpful, because the MCAT will make you think about problems in a different way,” Srivastava said.
“I like to think about topics as a rounded thing, how each ties into what I already know,” he said. “If you learn something in physics, it better make sense in biology.”
Jody Everson, peer tutoring program manager, said Srivastava is well-respected by his fellow tutors and students who seek his help.
“Sidd is the nicest, most well-rounded student. He is approachable, personable and always has a smile on his face,” Everson said. “Nothing changed about him after learning about his perfect score. If anything, he was in disbelief and more humble. Sidd is going to have great success as a doctor. Not only is he an academic genius, his bedside manner will be just as strong.”
Srivastava also has been an undergraduate researcher at UT Dallas, working on a computational approach to chronic pain in the lab of Dr. Theodore Price, associate professor of neuroscience in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
“Siddhartha has been an absolute gem for our research program. He has almost singlehandedly run a very complex project on computational genomics in my lab that has had a huge impact on our science,” Price said. “Sidd is exceptionally talented and has the potential to make breakthroughs in whatever he sets his mind to. I am sure he will make an excellent physician scientist and will have an important impact on medicine.”
Srivastava has known since elementary school that he wanted to be a doctor. He hopes to be a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon one day, and thanks to his perfect MCAT score, he has applied to top medical schools in Texas and across the country.
“I hope it opens doors,” he said. “I have a lot of friends back in Austin who are a few years younger than me, and they look up to me. They’re my support system, and that helps drive me forward, too.”
Srivastava and his family visit extended family in India every two or three years, and he would eventually like to open a medical clinic in the village where they live.
“I want to bring Western medicine to what is basically a homeopathic medical practice there,” he said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].