The subject matter could have been American history, English literature or trigonometry — she excelled.
But one area of study stood out to Julie Simon. The laws and theories of chemistry, showing how molecules and atoms make up everything around us, captured her imagination.
“Figuring out how things work and the processes just made sense to me,” she said.
Simon will follow that interest as she graduates from Center Grove High School and heads to college. She is the salutatorian of this year’s class and plans to attend Indiana University to major in chemistry.
Being recognized as one of two top students in the class is validation for the past four years at Center Grove, Simon said.
“It’s nice that all of the hard work did pay off. It really did matter,” she said.
To get to the level of salutatorian required many late nights of studying, writing papers and researching new topics. Her success wasn’t due to the fact that she was smarter than other people, she said. Rather, she dedicated maximum effort to each assignment she had.
“The only reason I did well in my classes is I worked hard in them. It wasn’t that I was smarter or understood more easily; I just put in more hours,” she said.
Giving something her full attention and striving to be the best has been part of her personality for as long as Simon can remember.
“I’ve always been like that, trying to do my best. It was automatic. I can’t wrap my head around not working as hard as I can,” she said.
That mindset spilled over into other areas of her high school career.
When she wasn’t doing homework, she was a member of the school’s track team all four years, throwing discus and shot put. She also was a part of the marching band.
Simon was a National Merit semifinalist and earned a perfect score in the SAT reading portion.
After she graduates college, she wants to be a researcher, eventually running her own lab and contributing groundbreaking solutions to the problems being worked out in chemical science.
Though she doesn’t know exactly what areas she wants to research, Simon knows her emphasis will be in finding answers.
“I’ve always loved discovering things, understanding things and then making those discoveries for the first time. Sharing that with other people is really thrilling to me,” she said.
“I think it’s a way to help people. There are a lot of really good applications in research, so I can do what I love and help people at the same time.”
Who: Julie Simon
Parents: John and Linda Simon
College plans: Studying chemistry at Indiana University
Career goals: To be a researcher with her own lab, possibly in academia