Arionna Russell had a child's curiosity. Why is the sky blue? How do planes take off and fly? Why does the light turn on and off when she flips the switch?
No longer a child, Arionna is still curious.
Now 18, the Battery Creek High School senior is simply asking more difficult and complicated questions, like how nanotechnology can help cure some forms of cancer.
"I have always liked science because I've always wanted to know how things worked and why things worked," said Russell, who will graduate in June. "But now I want to use that to have the greatest impact, to be able to impact the most people on the largest scale."
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Russell was named one of South Carolina's two most promising young scientific leaders by the State Superintendent of Education in April. Only two weeks later, she was recognized as a Gates Millennium Scholar.
She is one of 1,000 recipients selected from more than 50,000 competitors nationwide. As a Gates Millennium Scholar, Russell will receive a full scholarship she plans to use to study biomedical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Many of the questions Russell asks don't have answers, but she hopes to play an important role in finding them.
She was first introduced to the possibilities of combining technology and medicine through a class project as a sophomore, and Russell said she never looked back.
She can usually be found with her nose in a book or scrolling through studies on the Internet, researching the latest breakthroughs and technologies. She also finds time to volunteer in the school nurse's office, participate in sports such as cheerleading and track, and tutor other students, among many other extra curricular activities.
Everything Russell does, she does with "fire in her eyes" and an unmatched passion, said Kimberly Brown, who helped Russell apply to colleges and for scholarships.
"One thing that sets Arionna apart from all the other high school seniors graduating across the nation is the level of passion in her heart for her future and how badly she wanted it," said Brown, a counselor at Lady's Island Middle School who also runs her own guidance consulting firm.
"Arionna has this super amazing spirit that just grabs hold of anyone that she meets," Brown added, "and her energy is contagious."
Those who know Russell said they're not surprised by her accomplishments. She can do anything she sets her mind to, Battery Creek principal Edmond Burnes said.
"Arionna has unlimited potential for pursuing her dreams." he said. "I can envision this young lady as one who will contribute mightily to research that unlocks the door to finding cures or solutions to scientific questions that have lingered for centuries."
Russell said she doesn't know everything, nor would she want to.
"Knowledge is infinite, and the goal is to keep learning," she said. "Just because I don't understand something doesn't mean I am inferior; it just means I want to learn more about it and will ask more questions."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
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