Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Takoma Academy Student Lands Scholarship for International Research Program

Takoma Academy (TA) junior Chynna Smith has been accepted into and bestowed a full scholarship with Pioneer Academics, an organization founded by American university professors in cooperation with international education experts.

Story by Ron Mills

The organization’s goal is to provide outstanding high school students from around the world with challenging and creative research opportunities across a wide range of disciplines. Through the Pioneer Research Program, the organization states “students not only improve their academic experience and research skills but are also guided, mentored and inspired by thought leaders in their fields.” TA is the first Seventh-day Adventist high school to have a student accepted into this prestigious, international program.

Chynna Smith picture for May Visitor Magazine 2015Smith, whose career goal is to become a physician, will conduct research with Grant Jensen, associate professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology, known as Caltech. Time Magazine and U.S. News & World Report both rank Caltech as a top-10 university. Her area of study will be “Introduction to Cells and Intracellular Machines,” a course that will introduce students to cell biology by considering the four basic classes of biological macromolecules and how these might have come together to form the first simple cells.

Next Smith and other students will consider what cells must do to replicate, and survey some of the amazing macromolecular machines that have evolved to accomplish this function. The research component of the class will be to choose one particular machine, or class of machines, and write a review summarizing current knowledge about its structure and function.

Smith was the only American student chosen for this research project. Other students on the research team all live in China. A well-rounded student, Smith is also a member of the girls varsity basketball team, who recently won their fifth straight Maryland Independent School Association League Championship title. She is also a former member of the Takoma Academy Chorale. Teachers say her pleasant personality and humility draw others in.

Smith says the rigorous classes at TA are the primary reason she was accepted into Pioneer Academics. “I feel as though my AP biology and chemistry classes have really prepared me for success and understanding in this research program so far. I’m excited to get into the research and prepare myself for college-level learning,” she says.

Alban Howe, chair of TA’s Math Department, adds, “Chynna excels academically because she combines diligence and thoughtfulness with her natural intelligence.” David Hooker, TA science teacher, adds, “Rare that we have a student athlete who is also an exceptional student."

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