Heidelberg student heads to MIT
Shannon Grammel, a junior at Heidelberg High School, poses for a photo in the school's physics lab, May 4. Grammel is one of three Department of Defense Education Activity students selected to attend the Research Science Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this summer.

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- It's every child's worst fear - that they'll go off to camp and their family will move away while they're gone.

For Shannon Grammel, the high school-aged daughter of a Soldier, the move is nothing new, what is unique is where she's going this summer - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology better know as MIT. Meanwhile, her parents and two younger siblings will move from Heidelberg to Fort Campbell, Ky.

As one of 80 students, Grammel will be a member of the Research Science Institute, a highly competitive six-week internship for students who excel in math and sciences.

For Grammel, who will enter her senior year, both the math and science come easy, scoring an 800 in math on her SAT, she says she loves physics.

"She thinks in math terms," said Ray Smola, who teaches Advanced Placement physics and chemistry at Heidelberg High School. "More than once, she's looking at the calculus angle of some of the things we're doing in physics."

"I love math a lot," said Grammel, "but I'd say physics is my favorite just because it makes math more than just math, it's actually using the math. It means something when you attach it to the world.

"I think it's awesome that processes and stuff can be reduced to equations and numbers, and we can figure nature out."

Grammel, who holds a 4.6 grade point average, says she does well in all her classes, and between her four AP classes, being a member of the Model U.N., National Honor Society, running cross country and teaching Sunday school at church, she doesn't have much free time.

Her free time is spent mostly with her friends, even more so since finding out she's moving away this summer after two years at HHS.

Grammel said she's happy for the frequent moves throughout her school years, where she's only been in public schools at two duty stations.

"I think it helps tremendously to be in (a Department of Defense) school, because when you switch schools and you have different teachers with different teaching styles and you see things in different ways," Grammel said. "In the long run, the switching is definitely good for children. You become more adaptable and more flexible. You do learn to see things from different perspectives. You get a more comprehensive view of the world and thought processes."

It's Grammel's thought processes, and her incredible politeness, that Smola said sets her apart from her peers.

"It's more an artwork for her, for proving something is true," Smola said when describing her problem solving skills.

Grammel said she is very meticulous, and writes down every step of the problem. "For me, if I skip a step it doesn't look right and it will throw me off."

Something that threw Smola off on Grammel's application to RSI was her two choices for research interests, the field she will work in during her six-week internship at MIT.

"My first area was applied mechanics - mechanics is my favorite part of physics - and that's my number one by far. Then my number two - I've never taken any advanced biology classes, but I've always loved genetics - it fascinates me, and MIT has the human genome project, and I think that would be really interesting."

The RSI internship starts off with one week of seminars, and learning how to use the research tools available to them while at MIT, according to the RSI Web site. They then participate in hands-on research at leading research laboratories in the Boston area for four weeks before presenting their research through papers and conference-level presentations in the final week.

Grammel said she's really looking forward to the "overall college experience, living with other kids away from home, studying and just being at a college for six weeks."

After her stint at RSI, Grammel says she plans to tackle college applications. Her dream school is Notre Dame, but that might change after her time at MIT.

She also hopes to spend some time camping with her dad - who currently is deployed to Iraq as a military judge - something they haven't been able to do much of since moving to Germany.

She'll miss certain things about Germany though, the skiing and traveling and, of course, all her friends, but is looking forward to a busy summer.

The time at RSI "could really lay things out for me, and I could figure everything out," she said.

"I've never ever really known what I wanted to do when I grow up," Grammel said, "but physics just seems like something I could do, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to see if that's really what I want to do with the rest of my life, so I'm actually really looking forward to figuring it out."

(Editor's Note: Jason L. Austin writes for the USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16