Elena Ryan

Greta Everett, Staff Writer

Elena Ryan was announced Highland’s Science Sterling Scholar winner in December 2019. This honor was exciting but not unexpected, as Elena has been invested in the subject of science for as long as she can remember and has worked extremely hard during her high school years to prove she was worthy of being a Sterling Scholar.

Elena grew up surrounded by science. She had always been very interested in animals and studying their habitats and behavior. So interested, in fact, that she would often wander into the woods near her cabin and look for animals to draw and study.

“I like to go into my backyard or my cabin and go wander around the woods and I draw animals. Then I look them up online with their keys and try to find out what animal that is and then I write a thing about it next to the drawing,” Elena said.

But Elena didn’t develop this passion on her own.

“Everyone in my family is a scientist. My parents have P.H. D. s in molecular biology and genetics. My grandpa has a P.H.D in theoretical physics, and my other grandpa has a master’s in engineering and a P. H. D. in environmental science,” Elena said.

Nearly her entire family has a connection to science and has influenced Elena from a very young age. Bob Esterling, Elena’s grandfather, was one of those major influences.

“I think Elena’s interest and ability in science is mainly in her genes and the environment in which she grew up,” Bob said. “I imagine she saw many books lying about her house growing up…my wife and I had her at our house nearly every day after elementary school where I sometimes talked about science with her.”

Elena has challenged herself in the subject in high school since the beginning. She took Honors Biology her freshman year, AP Physics her sophomore year, IB Biology her junior and senior year, and Honors Chemistry and Physics C her senior year.

She is not only pushing herself in school. Over the summer, Elena and her grandfather spent week after week constructing an electron model.

“I hired Elena to help me with a project involving computing electromagnetic model of the electron and analyzing the data produced,” Bob said. “She also recognized result recordings and introduced a better way of graphing the results.”

Elena’s deep passion for science cannot be accurately portrayed just by listing the classes she has taken and the experiments done outside of school. Elena also enjoys visual art, and will often spend her free time drawing intricate pictures of snow leopards and other felines, the animals she most cares about and has studied the longest.

“I’ve always liked drawing animals. I started out drawing animals and then I realized I wanted to know more about them,” Elena said. “For a long time I wanted to be a research zoologist and study snow leopards in the Mongolian Planes.”

Elena’s love for animals, specifically leopards, has even carried over into her schoolwork. For her IB art class, she is drawing a portrait of a leopard with prisma colored pencils that is roughly two to three feet tall.

“My leopard drawing is about the humanization of animals. I wanted to make it big to encapture the viewer so they get absorbed and their entire focus is on it,” Elena said. “I wanted to make something really impactful.”

She also enjoys studying the skeletal systems of all different kinds of animals and recreating them on paper to better understand animal anatomy and how it functions.

“I know the basic structures of animals because I try to study their anatomy a lot. So when I see an animal I can draw them pretty quickly,” Elena said.

Elena’s love for the subject of science extends beyond her classes at school. She is worthy of winning the science Sterling Scholar and will use that and her previous achievements to succeed in life and make the world a better place by researching how to protect the snow leopards and the environment as a whole.

“I’ve always just wanted to help animals and preserve the environment around me as much as possible,” Elena said.