Prize Recipient


Ryan O'Donnell
Howard University


This will be my junior year at Howard University.  I am a physics and mathematics double major with a minor in economics.  I chose to study physics because I have always been particularly curious.  Although I avoided being bothersome, I was the kind of child who would every so often follow up the answer to a why question with another why question, and when one asks enough why questions, one usually ends up asking about physics.

I am a very honest person, so I am going to put this out there: this is hard.  Many people in science or math want to seem too smart for anything to be hard, but I confess it is very hard.  The subject is convoluted.  I hardly ever have free time.  I have to plan for research experiences and graduate school and make sure that I can compete on a global level.  I am always moving fast, juggling a million things, and stressing out.  Honestly, not everyone is up to the challenge; sometimes, even I don’t feel up to the challenge.

Someone gave me some really good advice not that long ago.  She told me that healthy narcissism is OK.  If you wait for confirmation from someone else to tell you that you’re awesome at something that you actually are awesome at, you’ll live much of your life underestimated and unappreciated.  I am brilliant and driven.  I have more talents, passions, and curiosity than I have time for.  I get involved in so many disparate things from photography to biology and never stop learning and improving myself.

With all that said, I really appreciate being acknowledged and rewarded for my accomplishments.  I have to take a mind-boggling number of credits and classes every semester in order to graduate on time.  I am president of the Howard University Chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS).  I am doing research this summer at CERN Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.  I am going to try to publish a paper early as an undergraduate student.  These are huge challenges, but I am up to them.

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