Junior Victoria Oswald chosen to attend PGSS



During a lab activity where students researched different bacteria shapes, junior Victoria Oswald peers into a microscope to observe bacteria examples. Oswald was one of 56 students who were accepted to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences out of 302 applicants. “I wanted to do something over the summer to show colleges that I love science, and I want to expand my horizons,” Oswald said.

Junior Victoria Oswald was told many times not to take four AP classes because it would be too difficult. However, she wanted to learn what she was passionate about and be prepared for college, so she took them.

“I ignored everyone’s opinions because I saw the competition from other students at Pennsylvania Free Enterprise and realized that three AP classes just wasn’t going to cut it with the types of colleges I wanted to apply to. Even if I got a B, it wouldn’t matter because I wouldn’t get into competitive schools if I didn’t challenge myself,” Oswald said.

Through all of the stress and late nights, Oswald felt it was worth it in the end. Her intuition to challenge herself allowed her to be one of the 56 students chosen from a group of 302 applicants to spend her summer vacation in a college-style program at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences.

PGSS is an organization that allows students interested in science to participate in research and specialized studies. The event will take  place at Carnegie Mellon University July 1August 3. Students attending the event take five core classes: biology, chemistry, physics, computer science and mathematics. Participants can take a lab in any of the science courses. They can also choose to take an elective in a related subject. Professors from four universities in Pittsburgh teach the classes, according to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences website.

“I plan to take Laser Technology and Biology: Brain on the Fritz as my elective. Laser Technology sounds like an intriguing subject to study. I am also very interested in learning about how the human brain works,” Oswald said.

Each core subject focuses on a particular area of study. For example, one of the core classes, biology, focuses on the pathology of HIV, according to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences website. None of the classes is graded; they are more focused on allowing the students to learn about the subject.

“I wanted to do something over the summer to show colleges that I love science, and I want to expand my horizons. Taking college classes is also a good way to prepare for my future,” Oswald said.

Each participant is also put into a group that works on a team project together. The teams carry out an experiment together throughout their time together at the program with a professor or researcher. The projects vary in subject, but there is one available in each of the core classes. According to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences, projects in recent years vary from investigating the authenticity of food labeling to the investigation of two-dimensional algebras. Oswald plans to do a project in either biology, chemistry or physics.

Oswald was notified that she was accepted into the program April 1. An applicant must show an interest in science and mathematics inside and outside of the classroom in order to get into the program. Oswald had to submit her application with an essay and three recommendations letters, one each from a math teacher, a science teacher and a school counselor.

“I am incredibly proud of Victoria Oswald for getting accepted into the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences. She is very deserving of attending PGSS. I was honored to write a letter of recommendation for Victoria to attend PGSS, and I was so happy when I found out about her acceptance into this prestigious school. Victoria is currently the only junior taking AP Physics I this year, and she is doing exceptionally well in the class. She loves science and is really looking forward to this amazing opportunity. Victoria recently shared with me a listing of the science classes that she will be taking during her summer academic adventure at PGSS, and I was very impressed. Victoria is a student that is very interested in the sciences, and she will be learning some awesome science this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about her incredible science experiences at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences,” Mrs. Suzanne Fredericks, AP Physics I teacher, said.

After all of the inspiration she received from Neil deGrasse Tyson and AP Physics lessons, Oswald plans on attending college to major in astrophysics.

“I want to go into science because it is an easy thing to care about. English and history are important, but science is long-lasting and helps future generations. It is concrete. English deals with feelings and the interactions of humans, which are subjective. Science existed before us and will exist after us. I’m not going into the field because I’m good at it – I’m actually a lot better at English – but because I want to do something that truly matters. Honestly, I just think science is a productive way to spend the years I have before I die,” Oswald said.