by Lindsey Meredith , ‘15 and Kimmy Sulivan, ‘15
George SmootAlex Rytel

As spring approaches, seniors begin to consider their futures for college and beyond. UA has a standard of excellence in academics, athletics, the arts and more. Two prominent scientists hail from UA, and here they share a few insights into how UA gave them a solid foundation to accomplish amazing things.

P hysicist George Smoot won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work on the Cosmic Background Explorer, a satellite which helped further the Big Bang theory. Smoot said that winning the award was an unexpected but much appreciated moment.

“[Winning the prize was] an amazing experience as it came as a surprise and had an overwhelming impact,” he said.

The award has not only improved Smoot’s career, but has also brought forth opportunities for media appearances. In season three of the popular game show, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?, Smoot won the grand prize of $1 million.

“I like[d] Jeff Foxworthy and the kids on the show that year, and I had a really good time interacting with them,” he said. “That probably made me looser and more willing to continue answering questions and taking risks.”

Smoot also made a cameo as himself on The Big Bang Theory in 2009. He said he thoroughly enjoyed appearing on the episode.

“It was a wonderful experience to go on the show,” he said. “The show is very good and still going years after I first went on it.”

Smoot’s appearance has encouraged other scientists to take a shot at show biz.

“That brief appearance… has gotten me a lot of notice and encouraged my colleagues to also go on the show,” he said.

Smoot said UAHS helped him prepare for his future.

“UAHS was very much a college-preparatory high school. As such, [it] had high academic standards and focused on the basic subjects that one needs to go onto college,” he said.

Smoot is currently traveling the world teaching others and speaking at conferences.

“Two weeks ago I did a trip to Mexico City to give an invited talk in a conference on Innovations in Education,” he said. “Last week I was in China [Beijing and Tianjin] for meetings, and now I am in Seoul teaching.”

Alex Rytel, a scientist and a 2008 UA alum, recently returned from a research trip to Antarctica where he worked as a field hand.

“On a daily basis I slept in a tent, got up and went hiking,” he said. “I took soil samples, water samples, ice samples and measured the conductivity of the ground.”

The trip was planned to study properties of water tracks and wet patches, which are damp patches of soil that stay liquid

below freezing.

Rytel said he was fortunate with attaining a position on the trip, and that his good reputation with his research adviser secured him the spot. Furthermore, he said that Antarctica is different than what he expected.

“[It’s] not as cold as you would think, or as snowy. I was in the Dry Valleys which is a 40,000-or-so-square-kilometer area that is mostly ice free and classified as a polar desert,” Rytel said. “The average temperature was about 2 degrees above freezing to 5 degrees below the whole time, and it only snowed a few inches the whole time I was there. The sun never set, but there was an evening kind of feeling at night since the sun was low to the horizon.”

Rytel said he discovered his love for science at UAHS, but he also learned other valuable skills.

“Upper Arlington helped me a lot to learn how to interact with faculty and teachers. I went to Community School for my second two years of high school, and due to the large amount of interaction with the teachers in that school over a two-year period of time I got to know the teachers very well,” he said. “I came out knowing that teachers are people too, and I should not be intimidated by them. Interacting with teachers was a well-developed skill by the time I left high school, and it helped me greatly in college.”