News - Elle Shaw Claims Top Honors at Commencement

Elle Shaw Claims Top Honors at Commencement

by Rachel Heston-Davis Elle Shaw Claims Top Honors at Commencement

At the Greenville College 2016 Commencement ceremony on May 21, graduating senior Elle Shaw received the President's Citation award. Each year, Greenville College bestows this award upon the graduating senior who has demonstrated the highest academic achievement  within the context of its Christian liberal arts program.

Shaw completed a double major in physics and mathematics and participated in the McAllaster Honors Program. She leaves GC prepared to matriculate this fall as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she will study condensed matter physics.

Hands-On Learning

Shaw found ample opportunity for hands-on learning in her chosen field at GC. As a sophomore she earned a spot as teaching assistant for the Planets and Stars class. This dovetailed with her original plan to study astronomy or astrophysics, something she says she "will always have a great interest in." Next came a lab assistantship in the electronics lab and an invitation to participate in lab research at GC over the summer. Shaw was among the first group of students to work with the College’s new Celestron telescope.

In the summer of 2015 Elle participated in a research experience for undergraduates hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This provided her both the idea and the research for her honors thesis, which analyzed properties of high-temperature superconducting material.

Despite a heavy load of academic challenges, Shaw earned an impressive GPA of 3.99. “An A- in Fine Arts finally got me,” she quips about that missing .01 points. Within her two major areas of study, math and physics, her GPA remained a perfect 4.0.

Work, Friends and (Sometimes) Sleep

Shaw balanced an impressive spread of responsibilities beyond the classroom. Over the course of four years at GC she played violin in the chamber orchestra, tutored East St. Louis students in math, volunteered with the Simple Room, and was appointed secretary/treasurer for her class during senior year.

Somehow Shaw made it all work, including a social life. "Certainly there were a lot of days I had to devote the majority of my time to homework and studying but I always tried to find time to connect with friends, even if it was just over a meal or study break," she says. And there was always the late-night homework session to pull her through busy weeks.

From First Job to Retirement

Now on a different path from her original idea to study astronomy, Shaw has a new plan. "I would like to possibly work in industry or for the government doing research, and eventually I think I would like to teach at the university level."

Looking even further into the future, she says, "I know my dream retirement job is to work in a science museum."

Well-Rounded Education

Shaw cites Hyung Choi, George Peters and Darrell Iler as her favorite professors at GC, and says of her overall college experience, "I enjoyed my major-specific courses and learned a great deal, but I also really enjoyed taking other classes made available through the honors program and the liberal arts curriculum."

She appreciates that GC classes "gave me the ability to articulate ideas and approach problems in a variety of ways, beyond just the technical processes learned in my major-specific courses."


Learn more about GC’s variety of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs and experiences:

“Do-It-Yourself” Instruments Enable Top-Flight Research by Undergrads

Exploration and Discovery: GC Science & Engineering Camp

GC Student and Faculty Research Published in The Journal of Chemical Education

Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) Programs at GC


This story was published on June 22, 2016

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