Senior leads STEM community, inspires younger students

At the Board of Education’s December 9 meeting, the Glenbrook Stories segment highlighted the interests and achievements of Glenbrook South senior, Elizabeth (Ellie) Welch-Jani. While at GBS, Elizabeth has contributed to the local and broader growth of the STEM field in a variety of ways, earning impressive recognition in the field of astrophysics, running a student-led tutoring startup, and spearheading a local Science Olympiad competition for middle school students.

Elizabeth’s interest in astrophysics began at a young age but was critically piqued when she learned that an international team of astronomers detected gravitational waves and light from the collision of neutron stars for the first time. She procured a research position at Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA), which was affiliated with this historic discovery. Since the summer of 2018, she has conducted astrophysics research with Professor Shane Larson to predict gravitational waves from binary white dwarf stars, which aren’t yet detectable. 

Last spring, she wrote a 40-page research paper on “Gravitational Waves from Simulated White Dwarf Binary Populations" and presented her work at the Illinois Junior Academy of Science State Fair at Southern Illinois University. After a rigorous Q&A session with judges, Elizabeth won Top Paper and Gold at State, the only research paper in the astronomy category to earn this recognition. She is currently working with Professor Larson to prepare a paper for scientific journals that incorporates her ongoing research.

As co-captain of the GBS Science Olympiad team for three years, and a leader of the GBS Women in STEM club, Elizabeth has also sought ways to engage and interest younger students in STEM. She was the lead organizer of an inaugural Science Olympiad competition for middle schoolers at GBS this past November. This student-driven event, which served as a way for current high school students to share their love for science with future Titans, attracted around 200 student competitors from seven local middle schools. 

VIDEO: Learn more about Elizabeth's efforts
Senior leads STEM community, inspires younger students