may have the soul of a poet, but Nelson Totah has the soul of
to call him an overachiever is an understatement.
junior at Emory College majoring in neurobiology and behavior,
with minors in both physics and religion, Totah also is editor
of Hybrid Vigor, a scholarly journal of science at Emory;
a licensed emergency medical technician and member of the Federal
Disaster Medical Strike Team; and a tutor of second graders.
But what is perhaps most remarkable about him is the drive with
which he pursues his passionand his desire to share it
seventeen, as a senior at a public high school in a Houston,
Texas, suburb, Totah began to feel his keen interest in science
was not being wholly satisfied by the curriculum. So he set
out single-handedly to create the Science National Honor Society.
just noticed that so much of society is based on technology
and progression in science, and the way I look at the world,
there is so much beauty to be found if you look at it through
science, Totah says. I just did not feel I was achieving
all I wanted, and I was looking for science resources at my
high school. I knew there were English and French national honor
societies, but my teachers did not know of a science one.
researched honor societies on the Internet to see how they worked,
wrote a constitution for a similar society of young scientists,
and applied forand receivednon-profit status for
the organization. Then he began writing and e-mailing figures
in the science and business community in Houston to establish
leadership for the newly hatched Science National Honor Society
(SNHS). He had little luck, however, until he hit on the secret:
I quit saying I was in high school, he recalls,
and suddenly I was getting resumes from top CEOs.
Totah is now vice chairman of a board of directors that includes
members from NASA, Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, and Sandia
is an outstanding person and student, says Emory chemistry
professor Raenell Soller. He is one of the most intellectually
gifted students at the University; however, his uniqueness results
from his strong commitment to humanity and academics. He is
a capable and passionate leader who can motivate others toward
a good cause.
aim of the SNHS, as Totah defined it, is to encourage
participation in and recognition of scientific and intellectual
thought, to advance the students knowledge of classical
and modern science, to communicate with the scientific community,
to aid the civic community with its comprehension of science,
and to encourage students to participate in community service
and, in turn, encourage a dedication to the pursuit of scientific
knowledge that benefits all mankind.
are now fifty-four chartered SNHS chapters at high schools in
twenty-four states, with another twenty-six chapters pending.
One chapter, North Crowley High School in Fort Worth, Texas,
is working to construct monitoring equipment for participation
in the North American Large-scale Time-coincidence Array (NALTA),
with the help of the University of Texas at Arlington and the
QuarkNet Program at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
In Atlanta, the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a consortium
of which Emory is a part, is developing a partnership that Totah
hopes will result in new high school educational programs in
neuroscience. The SNHS also has offered college scholarships
to science students. Other goals include summer science programs
at universities, a science publication for high school students,
an internship catalogue for college-bound students, educational
brochures and videos, seminars and workshops, and grants for
high school science teachers who help educate not just the brightest
students but the entire school.
you look back five years from now, Im sure well
have a lot accomplished, he says. Im pretty
enthusiastic and pretty confident about what we can do.P.P.P.