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Highland graduate recognized as a Goldwater Scholar
11/10/2016

Highland Community College and Pecatonica High School graduate Elijah Karvelis, 20, has been awarded the 2016 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship which is considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering in America.

The Goldwater Scholarship, established in 1986, by U.S. Congress and named for then-Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, supports outstanding students who are pursuing careers in the fields of engineering, mathematics, and the natural sciences. The Goldwater Foundation provides the scholarship to ensure that the Unites States is producing the number of highly-qualified professionals in critical fields of study.

It is a highly competitive scholarship for college sophomores and juniors pursuing research careers in natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Karvelis is currently a Chemical Engineering major, with a concentration in Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

"I first learned about the Goldwater Scholarship when I met with an advisor my first year at Illinois. It is a very well-recognized distinction in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, and while going into the rather daunting application process, I wasn't expecting to be nominated by Illinois, let alone become a recipient. I simply thought it would be beneficial to go through applying. I was familiar with some of the outstanding past recipients and didn't picture myself quite at that level. So, I was very surprised to have been selected," Karvelis said.

Graduating from Highland in 2014, with an Associate of Science degree and emphasis in Physics, Karvelis was one of the first graduates of the CollegeNow program, which began in the fall of 2012. CollegeNow students, who qualify for the program during their sophomore year in high school, take classes at Highland Community College full-time for two years and graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree from Highland. The CollegeNow program offers a challenge to higher-level students to get a jump-start on their college career.

Karvelis participated in HCC's Honors Program which is designed to provide eligible students with enhanced educational experiences in select courses chosen in cooperation with College faculty. Students in the program benefit from advanced study and specialized research related to general education courses and/or areas of concentration or specialization.

Elijah Karvelis

Juliet Moderow, biology instructor and Honors Program Director at Highland, said she remembers being impressed with the time management skills exhibited by Karvelis while a student at Highland. He was able to fulfill a college degree, complete four Honors Program projects, and maintain a 4.0 GPA, all while still in high school. Moderow adds, "I had no doubts that he would continue to be successful after finishing Highland."

In his first semester, Karvelis completed a project in Biology I, where he tested the effects of aquarium products on the natural levels of beneficial bacteria in fish tanks. In his second semester, he built a coil gun from scratch in his General Physics I course. He then completed a project in General College Chemistry II, where he created Lewis acids to discover new organic reactions.

Karvelis said, "Without the early exposure, and supportive faculty at HCC, I doubt I would have ever attempted physics or advanced math and chemistry courses, let alone to immerse myself in them."

Kervalis said choosing to participate in CollegeNow was one of the wisest decisions he made to prepare him for further higher education. He was exposed to the demand and challenge that college-level study requires while still in high school. But more importantly, he said it was at Highland that he was first introduced to the connections between mathematical theory and the physical world. The connections he made at Highland, and the realization that there is a derivation behind everything made it "click" and come together. This inspired him to study the physical sciences.

What made Kervalis look into the CollegeNow program? He said he was looking for a challenge in high school and eager to take that next step. The two-year jump on higher education and financial savings was a major factor. Highland made it an easy transition and still allowed him to remain in certain high school activities, allowing for the shift of class scheduling. All of his Highland credits transferred to his university.

"Elijah immediately showed the kind of maturity and dedication that it takes to be not just a successful student, but a super successful one," said Vicki Schulz, student advisor. "His academic career at Highland was spent pursuing high-level math and science needed to major in Engineering and Chemistry, and he excelled at all of those classes."

Kervalis' current academic pursuits are finishing up major-specific and honors courses and serving as a teaching assistant for a chemical engineering class. Currently, he is working on tissue engineering and biomaterials. His project is focused on using microfluidic devices to study the invasive behavior of brain cancer and its interactions with brain vasculature.

Kervalis is humbled by the Goldwater scholarship and adds, "The number of people who contributed to the scholarship, both directly on the application and indirectly through my education, is truly immense, and the award is a reflection of their incredible support, which all traces back to Highland."

For more information about Highland Community College and the CollegeNow program, call 815.599.3414.



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