Meredith Russell, a 2001 Columbia County home-schooled graduate and rising junior at Clemson University, developed an interest in physics during her senior year of high school.
As a joint-enrollee at Augusta State University, Russell says the challenge of the physics class was enjoyable despite the hard work.
"I had a really great professor at ASU who made physics fun," she said.
Last summer, Russell began researching internships that would help pay for her college education.
"I researched job opportunities and one was at NASA. I applied and really didn't think I was going to get it because most of the interns are rising seniors," said Russell, the 20-year-old daughter of Ed and Maria Russell of Evans.
Not only did Russell get an internship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., but on the same day she learned she had been accepted for the 10-week internship, she found out she had been awarded the prestigious Robert H. Goddard Memorial Scholarship. The $10,000 award is presented to one student annually based on exceptional achievement in science, technology and business.
Meredith Russell, a Clemson University student, is working at NASA as an intern this summer.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I was surprised and grateful when I found out," said Russell, who also works in a research lab at Clemson, studying solid-state physics.
She also is the recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to students in science, math and engineering. Russell was presented a $3,000 South Carolina Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Award earlier this year and is the recipient of the L.D. Huff Excellence in Physics Award presented by the Clemson University Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Dr. Peter Barnes, head of Clemson University's physics and astronomy department, says Russell is a "cut above. Frankly, I don't know when she sleeps and eats, she's involved in so much."
A physics tutor at Clemson University's Academic Support Center, Russell participated in a rocket launch in Alaska earlier this spring.
She worked at the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland last summer and is a member of SPIRIT, a joint venture between Clemson and Penn State in which students work on various components related to rocket launches. Russell also is an ambassador at Clemson, touring prospective students and their parents around campus.
"She's very low-key," Barnes said. "With Meredith, there is no ego; you know it's got to be there because you don't get to be where she is without pushing yourself very hard. She's an all-A student, which is amazing considering everything else she does."
"If I have any measure of success, it's a credit to my parents and teachers. It's because of them," said Russell, who was home-schooled with the exception of third grade. "I think through home-schooling, I learned a lot about how to be self-motivated and if you want something, to go after it. The worst they can say is no, so it's a win-win situation. I encourage other students to work hard and stay committed."
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