Each year, Cornell University names a handful of seniors who display exceptional intellectual drive and leadership abilities—scholars who are in the top 1 percent of their class--as Merrill Presidential Scholars. This year's select group includes Alexa Podolsky, a 2017 graduate of Princeton High School.
Podolsky, who will earn a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering in May, has worked as an undergraduate research assistant in Cornell's Lammerding Lab and a research assistant/volunteer at NYU Langone Health. She has a particular interest in biomaterials, precision medicine, and cancer technology, and plans to apply to medical school.
Each Merrill Scholar is given the opportunity to recognize an inspiring high school teacher and a Cornell faculty member who significantly contributed to his or her college experience. Alexa chose to thank Dr. Robert Corell, biological science and chemistry teacher at Princeton High School.
"Dr. Corell treated us like college students," she said. "He had high expectations of us because he respected us. He worked us hard because he wanted to prepare us for what we would soon face in college. I am forever grateful to Dr. Corell. Because of him, I learned how to stay on top of ever-flowing course material. I had always been interested in pursuing the STEM field, but I was not certain if I had what it takes until Dr. Corell’s support and encouragement showed me what I am capable of. Dr. Corell prepared me well for the rigor of biomedical engineering at Cornell, and I attribute a lot of my success to him."
Dr. Corell says Alexa impressed him with her "pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Alexa is one of only a handful of students that I have had in my twenty years of teaching who never worried about her grade on an assignment or a test but instead focused singularly on learning." He recalled the "selfless attitude" she demonstrated when he asked her to help three students who were struggling in his class. "Alexa very quickly agreed to give up her lunch once a week (and eventually more often than that) to help these girls out," he said. With her guidance, all three raised their grades and passed their AP exam.
The PPS community congratulates Alexa and Dr. Corell. "Moments like these," said Mridula Bajaj, Supervisor of Science, Professional Development, Testing and Assessment, "are why we joined this profession."
- Princeton High School