Richard P. Di Bianca, PhD, Newark Academy Upper School Principal

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College admission letter on behalf of Pavlo

Having known Pavlo since his arrival as a 9th grader in the fall of 2003 and having been his teacher for the past two years, I am happy to share my thoughts on this truly extraordinary young man.

Pavlo has been dealt a bizarre combination of hurdles and gifts. His birth (in the Ukraine) was traumatic. An extended period without oxygen resulted in a variety of permanent developmental abnormalities. He has poor muscular coordination such that, were you to see him walking down the hallway or ungainly grabbing a pencil, you would think that he had Cerebral Palsy. His speech is also affected. Although he is attentive and communicates very clearly in writing, the act of talking is effortful for Pavlo: it takes longer for him.

Although Pavlo has the kind of hurdles that are immediately obvious to an observer, they have minimal impact on his abilities as a student. After all, he exhausted all of our most advanced math and science courses-including AP Physics (self-study), IB Chemistry, AP/IB Biology, Biotechnology, Astronomy, AB & BC Calculus, AP Statistics, IB Higher Level Math (self-study) and IB Further Maths-he appears to be fully prepared for the intellectual challenges of a premier university.
The primary reason for Pavlo’s interest in undergraduate and, later, graduate studies is because he knows first-hand the kind of work that is going on in the advanced sciences. For the past two summers he interned with Dr. Belikov of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at Princeton University on projects associated with their TPF (Terrestrial Planet Finder) initiative. Each summer’s internship resulted in a paper, the abstracts of which Pavlo may have included in his admissions materials. The MAE internship, in which he was partnered with third and fourth year undergraduate researchers, was the latest in a series of independent projects Pavlo has done in mathematics and science. Others included work with MatLab, Fourier Transformations, Schroedinger Equations, and the limits of Newtonian Physics. Although he has shared some of this material with me, I confess to only being able to understand a small part.

His mastery of the fundamental maths and sciences is evident upon examining his standardized testing: high 700s in his SAT 2’s; and 5’s on all of his AP exams. (The results of his January SAT 1’s will come out soon.) Even though Pavlo is the most gifted science and math student in the school, he doesn’t always earn straight A’s (the Einstein phenomenon-?). Part of this has to do with his disabilities and part with his adolescence. In other words, he doesn’t talk in class very much; and he is a little sloppy when showing his work. Like an absent-minded professor, Pavlo is the kind of guy who could win a Nobel Prize but get lost on the way the ceremony.
Although the kid is a near genius in mathematics and science, his work in the other liberal arts has been solid, but not remarkable. He does B level work in English and Humanities, which he enjoys, but in which he is a more typical student. Pavlo indicates that there are two main reasons for this imbalance in achievement. First, English is his third language (his father speaks Ukrainian, his mother Russian). Second, reading and writing simply take him a lot longer than other subjects. So, he consciously limits the time he devotes to these subjects so he can engage himself in his preferred work-mathematics and science-be it required or independent. He does, however, have a great deal of interest in history and current events and has published an article on Ukrainian politics in the Ukrainian Weekly newspaper and others on online Ukrainian sites. For an eighteen-year old, Pavlo is extremely prolific and energetic.

In addition to taking full course load this year (which includes a math class at a local university), Pavlo is enrolled in the part-time philosophical seminar Theory of Knowledge 2. I am his teacher. I also taught him in the first half of the course, which he took in 111th grade. In addition to class discussion, the other vehicle for participating is our blog. At the end of each class, I pose a question to which the students must respond online before the next class. In a class of extremely able juniors, Pavlo’s responses tend to be the most insightful and well constructed. I often bring a print out of them to class to serve as catalysts for the subsequent discussion.

While most of my description of Pavlo has centered on his intellectual largess and passions, it would be unfair of me to ignore his other contributions (including athletic) to our school community. One might ask how a kid who can barely walk down the hallway could be an athlete. Pavlo is a runner. In his own awkward, strenuous, plodding manner, Pavlo runs and runs. He was a member of our Cross Country team for last three years. Rarely finishing out of last place, he has become the manifestation of “the spirit of competition.” He is also probably the only student at the school who routinely runs the campus’ PAR fitness course during free periods.

Most importantly, he is a young man with a huge heart. Always with an enormous smile on his face, Pavlo cares about others and about the world. He loves being in the outdoors-whether it is hiking, walking dogs or playing sports. He also loves the outdoors themselves. An environmentalist at his core, Pavlo is seeking to find a way to construct an algorithm that will produce the most efficient carpool design for the members of our community. For these personal reasons, as well as the academic ones, Pavlo is a joy to be around.

I find Pavlo to be a fascinating young man. He is bright, engaged, respectful and incredibly motivated. Our campus is better for having enrolled him.

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