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The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

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Princeton, MIT, Harvard and more top colleges compete for MSA senior

Senior Ralitsa Hovanessian stands in front of the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass. on Oct. 23, 2023. Sophomore Nathan He, junior Rockwell Li and Hovanessian were invited to present their research project at MIT’s Undergraduate Research and Technology Conference. Photo used with permission from Ralitsa Hovanessian.

Medical intern. World Science Scholar. Biotechnology researcher. Operation Smile leader. Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology student.

This is just a small sample of senior Ralitsa Hovanessian’s list of accolades.

Hovanessian was recently accepted into multiple top-ranked universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), California Institute of Technology (CALTECH), Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, Princeton, Duke and Johns Hopkins among others. This remarkable feat was the culmination of many years of hard work and scientific pursuit that started in elementary school.

“I went to Old Donation School (ODS) from second grade to eighth grade. I’ve always been really interested in math, so that’s what I pursued until high school,” said Hovanessian. “Here [at OL], I became more interested in physics and biology, more of the applied parts of math.”

Hovanessian attended the Governor’s School for Medical and Health Sciences in the summer between sophomore and junior year. She discovered medical microbiology during her time there and became interested in the subject. Subsequently, she contacted a professor at Old Dominion University (ODU), an initiative that began her scientific research journey.

Hovanessian did not restrict herself to academic research; she took on other types of projects as well. Along with sophomore Nathan He and junior Rockwell Li, Hovanessian collaborated with ODU engineering student Tyler Cason to create an invention for MIT’s Beaverworks Assistive Design Challenge. The solution helped everyday actions become more accessible to stroke survivors, and the group got their research published by IEEE Xplore.

“She’s a great communicator and writer,” said Rockwell. “She’s always on time, too.”

Throughout her academic career, Hovanessian contributed to various fields while staying true to her hobbies. During a presentation by alumnus Brayden Scharfe, who’s in the military, she discovered a love for aviation, which led to her obtaining her glider’s license. For her senior project, she created a free online course to help people pursuing pilot’s licenses to study for the FAA written exam.

In addition, she competed on the varsity volleyball team and was elected the president of Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society. When it came to college applications, Hovanessian had an impressive range of accomplishments to present.

“I thought my portfolio was pretty strong, so I increased the number of target schools and had some safeties as well,” Hovanessian said of her strategy. “I tried to be realistic with my application.”

She also applied to multiple schools in the early decision round, which gave her time to spread out her work instead of focusing it all during the regular decision period.

As for the future, Hovanessian plans to complete both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in three years. She decided to commit to Princeton University to study computer and electrical engineering. Many of her teachers have followed her journey and are proud of where she is today.

“In terms of growth, that entire group [Class of 2024] has grown tremendously,” said English teacher and Class of 2024 co-sponsor Thomas Stewart.

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About the Contributor
Mihika Sakharpe
Mihika Sakharpe, Design Editor
Mihika Sakharpe, a freshman in the Math and Science Academy, is a design editor and first-year journalist for The Current. She loves STEM, debate and languages (seven so far). She is a cricket fanatic and would eat sushi everyday if she could. Outside of school, she is a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. Her dream is to pursue rocketry and make humans an interplanetary species. Her goal is to write a diverse array of award-winning articles.

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