Ellie Welch-Jani reaches for the stars

Chloe Stannard, staff writer

From leading Women in Stem to being a co-captain in the Science Olympiad club, senior Ellie Welch-Jani has taken everything South has to offer to the next level by researching astrophysics with Professor Shane Larson at the Northwestern University. Welch-Jani’s vast amount of academic high school experiences will provide many options for her future studies, she explained.

Her love for science began at the young age of 10 when she participated in the Science Olympiad club and studied stellar evolution, according to Welch-Jani. With the help of South’s many advanced placement and honors courses, Welch-Jani discovered that her true passion is astrophysics.

“All of my math and computer science classes at GBS also prepared me to succeed in this research experience,” Welch-Jani said. “The perfect combination of math problem-solving, coding, and physics I’ve found in my research at Northwestern has made me even more sure that I want to continue studying and doing research in astrophysics.”

Since the scientific discoveries that proved the existence of gravitational waves, Welch-Jani was inspired to attend lectures regarding astrophysics discoveries, she explained. Welch-Jani has been participating in the study of astrophysics since the end of her sophomore year of high school.

“I talked to my research mentor, Dr. Shane Larson, after one of his astrophysics lectures and he invited me to be a part of a new program for high school researchers through Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics,” Welch-Jani described. “I learned python [computer programming], college research skills and foundational astrophysics concepts during the first summer.”

Through her research at Northwestern and participation in numerous clubs at South, Welch-Jani is able to foster her love for astrophysics. She explained her astrophysics research entails meetings with Larson and managing independent work.

“Research appeals to me because of the ability to contribute to the knowledge of the scientific community as a whole and to collaborate with others to tackle new questions that increase our understanding of the universe,” Welch-Jani described.

 As for family life, Welch-Jani said her family is very supportive of her academic aspirations to complete her astrophysics research in college. Ellie’s brother, freshman Jaden Welch-Jani, has had a close relationship with her throughout their childhood, Jaden explained. Following in her footsteps, Jaden looks up to his sister’s determination, work ethic, and involvement in school activities.

“I really don’t know what I would have done without Ellie supporting me and being a role model in every situation,” Jaden said. “Her success in school is definitely something for me to look up to and strive for.”

The duo has won first place in the Astronomy and Oceanography events, Jaden explained, as he expressed his joy at being able to bond through their similar scholastic interests. Additionally, Jaden described how Ellie is a loyal sister and continues to support him even when it comes down to a tricky math problem he struggles with.

“We participate in many of the same clubs and it is fun to both work with her and learn from her,” Jaden said.

Because of Welch-Jani’s effective leadership, research, and involvement in South’s extracurriculars, she has received 11 acceptances to colleges around the country, she said. With big goals for the future, Welch-Jani described her plans to get her Ph.D. in Physics and hopefully become a professor at a research university.

“In short, I worked hard, but ultimately enjoyed the process and gained a deeper appreciation of my efforts throughout high school,” Welch-Jani said. “[I am grateful for] all the opportunities I’ve had at South and the phenomenal teachers and others who supported me along the way.”