Fox Valley Academic Team, 2018-2019

Calvin Berg, Cary-Grove High School

Hometown: Fox River Grove

Parents: John and Galina Berg

Sponsor: Susan Nelligan, teacher

GPA: 4.791 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 36; SAT: 1560

Planned major: Aerospace engineering

Awards, honors: Illinois State Scholar, National Merit finalist, fifth at state WYSE in Physics and Engineering Graphics

Personal statement: "I have envisioned myself on my current path since before high school … by the seventh grade engineering became the obvious choice for me. Beyond my career aspirations, there remains that root interest in the natural world, in the analytical and rational which drove me toward engineering initially. For this reason, I was motivated to achieve in a competition over Materials Science for Science Olympiad, or to medal in the Chemistry event for the school's WYSE team."

Sponsor's endorsement: "He selected a research topic that is reflective of his interests and talents: engineering, math, science. The title, 'An Evaluation of Shrouded Rotors with Short Diffusers with Regards to Efficiency in Hover Flight,' indicates his STEM passion and the forte of his skills to produce such a research product."

James Graft, Marmion Academy

James Graft, Marmion Academy

Hometown: Barrington

Parents: William and Mary Graft

Sponsor: Victor Pinks

GPA: 4.85 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 35

Planned major: Biochemical engineering, biomolecular engineering, chemical engineering

Awards, honors: Amazon's City on a Cloud Innovation Grant Winner, 2017 and 2018; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Scholarship Medal for outstanding STEM students, 2018

Personal statement: "Molecular dynamics has opened me up to the world of science research. Before I began, I was so narrow-mindedly focused on becoming a surgeon. Molecular dynamics has taught me one of the most important traits of a scientist: the ability to fail over and over again yet still push on."

Sponsor's endorsement: "James seems to desire a complex level of challenges and expresses a strong understanding of his work. It is notable that his current level of achievement with molecular dynamics is generally not seen until graduate school level. He has seized the opportunity to do MD, and done so with great enthusiasm."

Vincent Lam, St. Charles North High School

Vincent Lam, St. Charles North High School

Hometown: South Elgin

Parents: Pak Lam and Vi Lam

Sponsor: James Lotarski, teacher

GPA: 5.75 on a weighted 5.0 scale

Test scores: SAT: 1560

Planned major: Biomedical engineering

Awards, honors: Illinois State Seal of Commendation toward Biliteracy, National Merit Commended Scholar

Personal statement: "The topics covered in my AP Biology class during junior year, such as molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, and physiology, have given me insight into the type of work that a biomedical engineer would perform. I was so enamored with these topics that I became a teaching assistant for AP Biology during senior year."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Vincent is a true self-starter. He has taken the initiative to work with me independently, as well as outside of class, on potential labs I wanted designed for future classes. He is able to take a given set of constraints set forth in a problem and work toward a desired solution. He is one of the most talented people I have encountered in my over the past few years working with advanced placement students."

Louise Gabrielle Lima, Illinois Math & Science Academy

Louise Gabrielle Lima, Illinois Math and Science Academy

Hometown: North Aurora

Parents: Gabriella Lima and Jose Guilherme Lima

Sponsor: Julia Husen

GPA: 4.0 on a traditional 4.0 scale

Test scores: SAT: 1540

Planned major: Biomedical engineering

Awards, honors: Japan Super Science Fair 2018 presenter at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan; Spanish National Exam Gold Award, 2017, 2018; 2019 FIRST design quality award with FRC Titan Robotics Team #2022

Personal statement: "Working hands-on with Northwestern Medicine's database, sitting in on meetings, creating a program, and interacting with the proton treatment machines opened my eyes to the field of medical physics and biomedical engineering to treat and improve people's lives."

Sponsor's endorsement: "When not contemplating the complexities of the universe, Louise enjoys giving back to the community through her work with GirlsIN2Stem. Louise hopes to be an inspiration and role model to the middle school girls she works with."

Andy Liu, Illinois Math & Science Academy

Andy Liu, Illinois Math and Science Academy

Hometown: Libertyville

Parents: Li He, Dongmin Liu

Sponsor: Julia Husen

GPA: 3.96 on a traditional 4.0 scale

Test scores: SAT: 1570

Planned major: Computer science

Awards, honors: Five-Time American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME) Qualifier; High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling (HiMCM), Outstanding Team; Northwestern University Model United Nations, Best Position Paper; National Merit Finalist

Personal statement: "I've founded a Model United Nations club at my school that has since grown to over 25 active members and spent a summer doing software development work for a social entrepreneurship venture that aimed to improve elderly care in the Chicago area. Experiences such as these have shown me the importance of using one's technical skills to tackle critical challenges in the international community."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Academically, Andy is as consistent as the sunrise. He has excelled in a curriculum that is accelerated in math. … He is truly one of IMSA's finest graduating seniors, and the bar for Andy is very high."

Conor McPheron, Geneva High School

Conor McPheron, Geneva High School

Hometown: Geneva

Parents: Kristine and Ian McPheron

Sponsor: Brian Vaughan, counselor

GPA: 4.63 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 36

Planned major: Mechanical engineering

Awards, honors: National Merit Commended Scholar, two-time recipient of school board Tradition of Excellence award, three-time recipient of PTO Academic Achievement Award

Personal statement: "I want to perform research in molecular and cellular bioengineering, most likely related to the development of new medical treatments or regenerative medicine. It may seem far off, but I will be experiencing true adulthood in just a few years, and what I have done now has truly prepared me for college and beyond. If I am lucky and continue to work as hard as I have, I see myself becoming the lead of a laboratory in the future."

Sponsor's endorsement: "While most of our students choose a reduced course load their senior years, Conor has never chosen that option. Conor has taken almost 18 GPA weighted courses, four in his senior year. Scheduling for Conor has been one of the biggest challenges of my career."

Joseph Noonan, Marian Central Catholic High School

Joseph Noonan, Marian Central Catholic High School

Hometown: Crystal Lake

Parents: Bob and Kris Noonan

Sponsor: Jim Stamatakos, counselor

GPA: 4.61 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 36; SAT: 1580

Planned major: Double major in physics and mathematics

Awards, honors: Salutatorian, AP Scholar with Distinction, National Merit Finalist

Personal statement: "My ultimate goal in life is to contribute to the knowledge of humanity in the understanding of physics and math. I hope to discover something that will have a big impact on the lives of many for years to come. ... After college, I plan to get a job researching in physics. Physics is a challenging field, so I seek out all the information I can, and the classes and activities I have taken have put me on the right path."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Joseph took AP Macroeconomics in the first semester of his junior year, but he took the exam in May. To 'review' for the exam, Joseph obtained an economics textbook (not the one he initially used for the course) and read it cover to cover in one sitting. The result (a score of '5') tells the rest of the story."

Nicholas Ortiz, Central High School

Nicholas Ortiz, Central High School

Hometown: St. Charles

Parents: Jennifer and Rene Ortiz

Sponsor: Michele Sinnaeve, teacher

GPA: 4.3725 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: SAT: 1570

Planned major: Electrical engineering and computer science or mathematics with computer science

Awards, honors: Teacher's Choice Award in Math, Science, and German (each given to two students), Illinois State Scholar

Personal statement: "I succeeded academically because when the material was put in front of me in high school, I was simply fascinated. I developed a passion for learning, especially STEM subjects, so I decided that I would try as hard as I could not to get good grades, but to develop that passion and to improve myself as a person."

Sponsor's endorsement: "His excitement about math is contagious. Nick is incredibly interested and passionate about all kinds of math, including its deeper meaning and all its implications. I am so impressed with his unmatched desire to truly know math. He challenges me and expands the way I think and teach."

Neha Rajan, Batavia High School

Neha Rajan, Batavia High School

Hometown: Batavia

Parents: Neeraja and Dhivyakumar Rajan

Sponsor: Corey Bernard, counselor

GPA: 4.375 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: SAT: 1520

Planned major: Biomedical engineering

Awards, honors: AP Psychology Student of the Year, Illinois Junior Academy of Science State Exposition Gold Award, Illinois Math and Science Academy Young Science Achievers

Personal statement: "My whole life, whenever people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I hoped to work in medicine. In college and beyond, I hope to conduct research that will allow me to bridge the connection between fertility and technology."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Neha is one of those exceptional students who gives every ounce of effort in all that she does. I have met very few students who are as diligent, analytical and resilient as Neha is. As Neha plans to pursue a career in the medical field, it is inevitable that she will have many challenges presented to her. I have no doubt in my mind that Neha will hit those challenges head on and that she will find nothing but an abundance of success in college and in her career."

Kayla Villa, St. Charles East High School

Kayla Villa, St. Charles East High School

Hometown: St. Charles

Parents: Rob and Kathleen Villa

Sponsor: Maura Kenny, counselor

GPA: 5.729 on a 5.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 36; SAT: 1590

Planned major: Molecular biology/biomedical engineering, aerospace engineering or foreign policy

Awards, honors: Presidential Scholarship Candidate, Academic All-Conference, Human Relations Award, National Hispanic Scholar

Personal statement: "I am interested in possibly studying molecular biology or biological engineering, which would allow me to work every day to research how we can create more effective treatments for various diseases. Additionally, I am interested in studying international development within the more specific lens of the sustainable development of cities."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Throughout Kayla's high school career, she has challenged herself academically by completing a rigorous course load containing college preparatory, honors, dual-enrollment (University of Illinois) and Advanced Placement courses. She credits her love of math and science courses for her ultimate career goal in the STEM field."

Fox Valley Academic Team honorable mentions, 2018-2019

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