Eleanor Merchant ’23 Will Follow Her Love of Math and Science at Princeton University

The National Merit Finalist and 15-year student has distinguished herself by pursuing challenging academic opportunities in math and science and following her various interests along the way. She credits Hutchison for fostering her intellectual curiosity and love of learning.
Most high school students wouldn’t take both AP Calculus and AP Statistics during their junior year, but Eleanor Merchant ’23 loves math and has the Mathematics Award for her grade to prove it. She has a pretty equal interest in science, having taken AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics during her time at Hutchison. When she heads to Princeton University, she said she will be deciding between studying molecular biology or mathematics and is considering a career in the medical field.

“Hutchison cultivated my love for math. It also has been great in fostering a love of science, not just for me but for a lot of people in my grade,” Eleanor said. “The enthusiasm that the teachers have for their respective subjects inspired and motivated me to work hard in their classes and appreciate what they’re teaching,” she said.

From experiments in the science lab with Ms. Wesson to studying physics with Dr. Braby, the National Merit Finalist and 15-year student said Hutchison helped her grow passionate about STEM from the start. Her older sisters, Charlotte ’19 and Sophie ’17, also served as positive influences because they love math too. For example, when Eleanor was learning about multiplication in lower school, one of her sisters started explaining the distributive property with excitement. Eleanor said Hutchison truly sparked a love of learning that she will carry with her to college. 

Over the years, Eleanor pursued a variety of learning opportunities. In summer 2021, she attended the Tennessee Governor's School in Integration of Biological & Statistical Sciences. Before that, she completed a number of summer intensives through prestigious programs such as the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, Duke University Talent Identification Program, and Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. Her most hands-on experience was as an intern for the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory in summer 2022. She collected oyster specimens in the Gulf of Mexico and assisted with an oyster restoration project.

“It’s important to get experiences outside of the classroom and out in the field. It’s one thing to learn about ocean acidification in class. It’s another to go intern somewhere, see the effects of it, and understand how what you’re learning in class applies,” she said.

At Hutchison, Eleanor enjoyed the flexibility and openness to go in her own direction based on her interests. During her junior year, for instance, she wanted to hold a blood drive because of the critically low blood supply that has persisted since the COVID-19 pandemic. She felt empowered to organize and manage the drive and coordinated with school administrators and the American Red Cross of Tennessee to bring two blood drives to the school. It's estimated that the combined blood donations from the Hutchison community during two blood drives, one in her junior and one in her senior year, could have saved about 190 lives.

“It was daunting because trying to implement something that hasn’t been done before can pose a big challenge,” Eleanor said. Hutchison Serves Director Helen Guyton and other school administrators were incredibly encouraging to her, she said.

Eleanor explored her interests outside of STEM as well. She competed on the course and the court as a member of the cross country and tennis teams and in TV tournaments as a member of the Knowledge Bowl team. She said these activities taught her about being in a team environment.

“Half the battle is cheering on your teammates because, at the end of the day, your score is determined by everybody running or everyone’s matches,” she said. “Being a part of the bigger picture has taught me about encouragement. Having a team of people supporting you and, in turn, your support of them, makes a huge difference.”

Eleanor appreciates her classmates’ kindness as a whole and said her favorite thing about the Class of 2023 is the compassion they have exhibited over the years, from early childhood all the way through the end of senior year. “A lot of us have grown up together. Even if some of my classmates didn’t come to Hutchison until their later years, knowing them and being able to grow alongside them has been special,” she said.

She will miss Hutchison and plans to stay in touch with her classmates, but she is excited about what is next for her at Princeton University in the fall. 

“It’s bittersweet because I’m leaving many fun memories behind after 15 years, but I’m ready for college and life after high school, she said. “I’m looking forward to meeting people from all over the world and from many different walks of life and backgrounds and learning a lot,” she said.


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