winning strokes | Swimmer Claire Lin has been making waves in her sport since she was little, and she plans to continue doing so at Harvard University this fall. The Kirkwood High School senior says she first took to the pool at about age 3. She joined a competitive club a few years later, and says that was when she got serious about the sport. “It’s when I started viewing swimming from a more athletic standpoint, and not just as something fun to do,” she says.

Claire says her top events are the 200-meter IM and the 100-meter backstroke, breast stroke and freestyle. “I spend a lot of time practicing all four,” she notes. “We had a good season this year.” Her team placed well at invitational and state events in 2018, and she helped set a new school relay record at this year’s state meet. “That was exciting,” she recalls. “My teammates and I have had so many grueling practices together; it was great to get to the state meet and see it all pay off. It’s my senior year, so there have been lots of nostalgic ‘last’ moments, but we also have had some great firsts.”

Claire says she is looking forward to hitting the pool with her new Harvard teammates. “It’s a very good Division 1 team,” she says. “But swimming is just one thing that attracted me to the school. The academic programs are really strong, and the community and student body seem very diverse. I’m so excited to meet people with all kinds of different viewpoints, learn from them and offer my own perspectives.”

She is considering a major in environmental engineering or neuroscience. “I’ve had an interest in sustainability since I was very young,” she says. “It really manifested itself my junior year when I took AP biology. I realized how many interesting and important fields of study are related to that. I’d love to work on new sustainable energy resources and clean water access for populations that don’t have it.”

Claire works plenty of other extracurricular activities into her schedule as well. She plays cello for her school and the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra and has been a member of the Missouri All-State Orchestra for three years. She’s a designer and proofs editor for the high school’s award-winning yearbook, The Pioneer, and loves musical theater and dance, having performed in Beauty and the Beast and Seussical at The Muny.

“Swimming has taught me so much,” Claire says of her signature sport. “I love that it’s both a personal and team effort. You have to take initiative for yourself in practice, and how you place in a meet reflects the work you’ve put in as an individual. But the relays are about encouraging your teammates and helping them win. We have a unique team bond and are always there for each other.”

brain power
Ladue Horton Watkins High School junior Akhil Kondepudi is still deciding on a college major and career path, but he already has an advanced understanding of the human mind and the science surrounding it.

This spring, Akhil won the 2018 U.S.A. Brain Bee, a neuroscience competition held at the University of Maryland. It’s a prestigious contest, pitting high school students from 54 Brain Bee chapters against each other to prove their knowledge of human intelligence, memory, the senses, neurological disease and more. “I was nervous when I first arrived, but I became more relaxed as I talked to people there,” Akhil says. “It was a great experience for me.”

The event took place over a three-day weekend and was divided into six sections with specific study resources for each. “I also used a couple of textbooks, MRI slides and other sources to prepare, and Washington University students helped me study some of the harder topics,” Akhil says. “The win felt great. Lots of people congratulated me, my family was really proud, and I was happy that all of my hard work paid off.”

Akhil’s big victory means that he’ll make a fiveday trip to the World Brain Bee Championship in Berlin this July, which he will begin studying for when school gets out. He also won an eight-week research fellowship to work in a Washington University neuroscience lab this summer. “I will be pretty busy,” he says. “Getting ready for the national competition was like a full-time job, so studying for the international one will be, too.”

The young scientist participates in other knowledge competitions as well, and he belongs to math and science clubs at school. “I like volunteering with other students in those subjects,” he says. “I have an analytical mind, and I enjoy using it to help others understand.”