16 Incredibly Impressive Students At Princeton

Julia ratcliff, princetonNoel ValeroJulia Ratcliff is the top-ranked hammer thrower in the NCAA rankings.

Founded in 1746, Princeton University remains a vibrant community of scholarship and learning.

Students who attend this Ivy League school follow in the footsteps of Woodrow Wilson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eric Schmidt, Meg Whitman, Michelle Obama, Jeff Bezos, and other movers and shakers of industry.

From creating companies to scaling summits, these 16 students are changing what it means to be impressive.

Alison Bick invented a smartphone app that tests for clean water.

Class of 2015

By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic shortages of fresh water, according to the United Nations. The situation is more dire than ever, and Alison Bick may have the solution in the palm of her hands.

Bick, an Intel Science Talent Search finalist in 2011, holds the patent for a smartphone app that tests water for contamination -- a fast, simple, low-cost, and real-time device suitable for use throughout the world. Here's how it works: The user takes a picture of water that has been exposed to fluorescent light (most commercially available cell phones can be programmed to emit the right spectrum of light from their display). Bick's app analyses the picture and determines the water's organic and inorganic qualities, with a confidence level of 65% and 80%, respectively.

The Short Hills, New Jersey, teen first got the idea when a storm hit her town and the water being pumped into homes was potentially contaminated. Since development began, she independently patented the device and has been in talks with Veolia -- a French water treatment firm -- and the World Bank to commercialize and implement the invention.

Bick, a chemical and biological engineering major, plans to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and split her time between academic and commercial research.

Cason Crane is the first openly gay person to climb the Seven Summits.

Class of 2017

In the two years Cason Crane took between graduating from high school and starting at Princeton, he scaled the highest mountain on every continent (the Seven Summits), becoming the fifth-youngest person as well as the first openly gay person to do so. He used the opportunity to raise awareness of issues faced by LGBT athletes; he also raised more than $US135,000 for The Trevor Project, a suicide lifeline for LGBTQ youth.

Since arriving at Princeton last fall, Crane has continued his work for The Trevor Project through the initiative he started called The Rainbow Summits Project, as well as talks around the world, including two TEDx Talks.

Another of Crane's passions is entrepreneurship -- he served as the chief of staff for this year's Start @ a Startup at Princeton, a conference that brought together 250 undergraduate entrepreneurs from around the country and 30 prominent tech startups, like Dropbox, Square, and Indiegogo. Crane is responsible for raising and then managing the $US300,000 budget for the event.

When he's not in class or training for Ironman triathlons, Crane is thinking about his future -- either in media and communications, or in the tech world, possibly building out an idea he has for a travel-related startup.

Catherine Dennig is launching her nightlife app overseas.

Class of 2015

The summer of her sophomore year, Catherine Dennig created the nightlife app nofomo, designing and building everything from the business plan to the sales pitch to the app itself. She hired a small team, which is helping her ready the app for beta launch in Auckland, New Zealand, in the next few weeks.

The impending beta launch puts a lot on Dennig's already-full plate, which is already heaped with her senior thesis as well as responsibilities as co-president of the Princeton Social Entrepreneurship Initiative (PSEI) and undergraduate adviser on the Princeton Entrepreneurship Advisory Committee (PEAC).

Through PSEI, Dennig has been expanding the group's mission to make Princeton one of the world's top social innovation hubs. She put the focus on PSEI's 60-second Princeton Pitch contest, doubling the number of pitches as well as the prize money awarded; an iOS app that lists all of Princeton's current entrepreneurship resources; and stronger ties to the alumni community.

Dennig was one of two undergraduate advisers chosen from a pool of more than 5,200 to serve on the PEAC. She works with faculty, staff, alumni, and graduate student advisers to help the university president implement administrative policy changes in teaching and enabling entrepreneurship on campus.

When she graduates in the spring, Dennig knows she wants to remain involved in the startup world, starting with giving nofomo her undivided attention.

Duncan Hosie challenged Justice Scalia on his stance against gay marriage.

Class of 2016

In winter 2012, Justice Antonin Scalia had come to Princeton to promote his new book 'Reading Law' when a freshman, Duncan Hosie, stood up and challenged him outright on his writings against marriage equality -- writings that Hosie found offensive and inflammatory.

Hosie's stand against Scalia was met with applause from his peers at Princeton, and the event was covered by The New York Times, The New Yorker, and MSNBC's 'The Last Word,' where Hosie was invited to speak. Hosie also wrote a piece for The Los Angeles Times reflecting on the experience, and he was named to the publication's 2012 'Nice' list alongside Hillary Clinton and Pope Benedict XVI, among others.

Now a junior, Hosie remains active in politics on and off campus. He's the cofounder and president of the Princeton Committee on Bipartisanship and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He has also interned with Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, and the Center for Voting and Democracy (FairVote).

Hosie hopes to go to law school when he graduates and launch a career in public service.

Eamon Foley is a former Broadway actor who launched a theatre company on campus.

Class of 2015

Before arriving on campus, Eamon Foley lit up Broadway in six productions, including 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' and 'Gypsy.' Now, he is the founder and artistic director of Princeton's newest and most envelope-pushing theatre venture, Grind Arts Company.

Foley saw a void in the school's theatre scene; it was stagnant. Grind Arts is dedicated to revitalizing the culture and creating productions that take risks and push boundaries to draw audiences that usually would not attend. Shows must update original pieces in a way that has never been done, whether by drawing out new themes or inserting experimental elements. In the past two semesters, Foley has choreographed two musicals: 'Nine' and 'Sweeney Todd.'

This novel approach has attracted established artists to become involved with the Princeton stage, including Tony-winner Trent Kowalik ('Billy Elliot'), television star Graham Phillips ('The Good Wife'), and 'The Voice' contestant Ben Taub.

Foley's career plans include cultivating Grind Arts for the professional world and working his way up to be a director or choreographer of commercial theatre.

Eden Full invented a rotating solar panel that produces 30% more electricity.

Class of 2015

Eden Full is a member of the inaugural class of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, and she has returned to Princeton after a two-year gap to finish what she started. Full, a mechanical engineering major, is the founder of SunSaluter, a nonprofit organisation whose goal is to make clean energy affordable and accessible to all.

As a teenager, she invented a low-cost contraption that attaches to solar panels and allows them to rotate, following the sun from east to west throughout the day and capturing 30% more electricity. It uses gravity and two water bottles -- making the SunSaluter an intuitive and locally sourced device for use in developing countries. SunSaluter is present in 13 countries, while Full's efforts are currently focused on India.

In 2011, Full and 19 other young adults dropped out of college and moved to the Bay Area, where PayPal founder and major Facebook investor Peter Thiel awarded them $US100,000 each to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. She made the unusual choice to return to Princeton after completing the fellowship and has since founded the Princeton Gap Year Network, an advocacy group for students with non-traditional undergraduate timelines.

Her post-graduate aspirations include apprenticing under an engineer and building meaningful technologies for the rest of her life.

Edward Leung has performed piano concertos around the world.

Leung performing at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Class of 2016

Edward Leung was born to a lower-middle-income family in Queens, New York, and his parents started him on both piano and violin in elementary school. His ability to pick it up quickly -- and well -- led him to play professionally.

Since middle school, Leung has performed violin and piano concertos in China, Japan, Denmark, Iceland, Greece, and Russia, among other countries.

Leung now focuses on piano, and he continues to perform while in school, though mainly domestically. On campus he and a classmate cofounded Opus 21, a new chamber music ensemble of about 20 musicians who present traditional and more eclectic chamber works with other schools, including Columbia, Juilliard, and, next semester, Harvard and Yale.

One of the reasons Leung chose to study at Princeton was so that he could focus on his music while getting a well-rounded education. Now in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Leung plans to go on to get a graduate degree in piano performance when he leaves Princeton.

Graham Phillips costars in the CBS political drama 'The Good Wife.'

Class of 2017

On CBS' Emmy-nominated show 'The Good Wife,' Graham Phillips' character Zach lies at the heart of the chaos, political drama, and family issues that surround the Florrick family. The role has earned Phillips and his castmates three nominations at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

Julianna Margulies, as the titular character, plays a litigator who returns to work when her State's Attorney husband has been jailed following a notorious political corruption and sex scandal. Their eldest son, Zach, takes an interest in both politics and the law, and his top-notch computer skills allow him to expose lies being spread about his father.

Phillips started at Princeton in fall 2012, despite still being in the middle of filming for the show's fifth season. He told Entertainment Weekly in an interview that he picked Princeton over the other Ivies for its proximity to Brooklyn, where 'The Good Wife' shoots, though he first fell in love with the campus and professor list during visits to see his sister, who also attended. Fellow alum David Duchovny, Phillips' costar in the indie movie 'Goats,' wrote his letter of recommendation.

He often takes to social media to share news of his college experience, posting posters for university productions he acts in, typical rants about the course load, and breathtaking videos chronicling his travels to and from campus.

You may also recognise the Laguna Beach, California, native from his roles in 'Evan Almighty,' 'Ben 10: Race Against Time,' or his numerous appearances on Broadway.

Joe Benun founded an intercollegiate endurance sports team dedicated to doing social good.

Class of 2015

His summer before entering Princeton, Joe Benun launched a nonprofit and intercollegiate society focused on running and endurance sports that unites athletes in campus chapters across the country under a single initiative: Use endurance sports for social good.

Team U members raise money for charity through an online fundraising platform and on-campus events. By bringing speakers to campus, holding film screenings, and tapping into social media, these athletes spread awareness about global health and poverty issues. With 10 chapters -- and an international branch in Paris -- they have collectively raised more than $US40,000 for a children's hospital being built in Eldoret, Kenya.

Earlier this year, Team U organised a weekend-long conference called the National Endurance Sports Summit, which Benun (a two-time Ironman Triathlon finisher) calls the biggest challenge he has ever faced. More than 170 members came together at Princeton for panels, workouts, networking, and collaborating on the organisation's objectives.

Benun, who also serves as cofounder of Good St., a tech and design nonprofit startup that makes frequent charitable giving a breeze, says he will follow his passions into social entrepreneurship, fitness, law, or international relations.

Julia Ratcliff is the top-ranked hammer thrower in the NCAA.

Class of 2016

It's easy enough to stand out as one of 15 students from New Zealand at Princeton. But Kiwi-born Julia Ratcliff shines for being No. 1 in a vastly unrecognised track and field event: the hammer throw.

This year, Ratcliff won the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the hammer throw and was named Princeton's Female Athlete of the Year 2013-2014. It was Princeton's first women's track and field individual national title, according to ESPN. Ratcliff swept the top three distances of the day, capping her undefeated season with a mark of 219 feet, 5 inches.

Growing up, Ratcliff bonded over the sport with her father, who coached the local high school's track team. It is not very popular in New Zealand, leading her to travel across the country in pursuit of challengers. By the last couple of years of high school, she began competing on an international level and even set the New Zealand U-18 record for women's hammer throw.

Since throwing on the Tiger uniform, Ratcliff placed fourth at the IAAF World Junior Championships and has broken the New Zealand national record, Princeton school record, and Ivy League record -- three times over. Her sophomore year, the US Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association named her one of 10 semifinalists for the Bowerman Trophy, considered track and field's version of the Heisman Trophy.

Now, the economics major has her sights set on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Beyond that, Ratcliff plans to study economics or politics in graduate school, possibly in England, and pursue a career in policy advising.

Laura Harder oversees 40 service projects as chair of the Princeton Student Volunteer Council.

Class of 2015

Laura Harder serves as chair of a seven-person executive board of the largest student-run organisation at her school. The Princeton Student Volunteer Council is an umbrella group overseeing most service projects that span the communities surrounding Princeton and address issues like education, homelessness, hunger, health, and well-being.

As chair, Harder manages 600 student volunteers, created new systems to measure project performance and increase accountability, and implemented new standards for volunteer training.

This past summer, Harder was awarded an internship at The White House Office of Public Engagement over 6,000 applicants. She drafted talking points for speaking engagements, spoke with constituents and stakeholders about White House initiatives, and created organizational tools to improve responsiveness and streamline internal processes.

After graduation, the Shanghai native would like to live overseas again and work for a nonprofit or social entrepreneurship organisation that improves access to health and education globally.

Liz Lian cofounded a tech-savvy women's clothing company.

Class of 2015

On a particularly hot and humid day, Liz Lian found herself wishing for a dress that didn't stick to her skin or show sweat. So last year she and her friend Sanibel Chai, a UPenn student, started 38th & WICK (named after the products' production on 38th Street in New York City), a clothing company that makes fashionable women's clothes out of moisture-wicking fabric like that used in athletic apparel.

A successful Kickstarter campaign this summer launched the brand's first collection, which is now being worn by people in five countries and on more than 20 college campuses. The products address two previously unmet needs in the fashion industry: The clothing's performance fabric keeps women comfortable during nights out, and the built-in pockets are big enough for cell phones, keys, and credit cards, eliminating the need for purses.

On the side, Lian writes and edits pieces for Princeton's Nassau Weekly newspaper, and she writes sketches and jokes for All-Nighter, a late-night talk show on campus.

38th & WICK is now expanding its collection, and Lian plans to go full time with it when she graduates while possibly pursuing an MBA in the near future.

Nathan Yoo cofounded a nonprofit that helps youth in Orange County become leaders.

Class of 2017

Though Nathan Yoo lives and studies full time at Princeton, he runs a non-profit, Youth Leadership Collective, out of his hometown in California that provides youth in Orange County with opportunities for personal, community, and leadership development so they can make positive change in areas and issues that are important to them.

Now up and running for almost a year and a half, YLC serves about 100 youth and runs numerous after-school, weekend, and summer programs including a weeklong leadership summer camp and a Club Consulting program, where high schoolers around the county consult one another on how to better run their school clubs. YLC works with numerous partners and supporters to make scholarships available to low-income youth.

Yoo's passion for the humanities and social good extends to his roles as the co-president of Princeton Social Innovation, and the office and activities administrator for the Pace Center of Civic Engagement.

Yoo hopes to study and learn more about nonprofits and workforce development, and he plans to continue investing in youth empowerment, whether through YLC or another avenue, when he graduates.

Ray Chao campaigned to improve employment prospects for ex-offenders.

Class of 2015

Ray Chao spearheaded a campaign that would make it illegal for New Jersey employers to make job applicants detail their criminal histories. The Ban the Box NJ campaign would literally remove the check box on applications that asks about prior convictions.

'One in four Americans' have criminal convictions, Chao told The Daily Princetonian. 'The fact that your entire future and life can be derailed by a box that is not representative of your talents is not fair.' Chao managed everything from fundraising to communications strategies to lobbying legislators for support. Because of the bill's overwhelming support and Chao's bipartisan approach, Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law in July.

This past year, Chao served as the press secretary and communications director for Jim Golden's run for mayor of Trenton, New Jersey. While Golden did not ultimately win, Chao helped him boost fundraising efforts and landed him more than 200 media appearances in six months. In the end, Golden was within 500 votes from making the runoff election.

Chao is also the captain of Princeton's mock trial team, taking the group from No. 300 to No. 2 in the national rankings. Chao graduates in May, and he will begin working next fall at Oliver Wyman in New York. He plans to eventually enter public service.

Ryan Low has worked on 25 political campaigns on local, state, and federal levels.

Class of 2016

Ryan Low's political consulting experience spans a dozen states and includes director-level roles on campaigns for US Congress.

The Los Angeles native got his start in politics at age 16, interning in the office of California State Assembly member Warren Furutani. Low gained experience working under influential political consultants Sue Burnside and Arianne Garcia, earning greater responsibilities over time.

Low directed Janice Hahn's 2011 and 2012 successful campaigns for US Congress; helped elect Cristina Garcia for State Assembly in 2012 despite being outspent 8 to 1; and fought tirelessly on Wendy Greuel's campaigns for mayor of Los Angeles and for Congress while studying at Princeton.

'The real revolution in politics today, I think, isn't being fought along ideological lines, cultural lines, or in pieces of public policy, but rather it's getting women elected,' Low says. 'They bring a perspective, an attitude to government and to getting things done that I think the literal old, boys' club lacks.'

Low, a medieval history major, hopes to continue his studies at the graduate level and pursue a career in academia and political consulting.

Shawon Jackson interned for the White House and the Department of State.

Class of 2015

Shawon Jackson's interest in politics and education started in his low-income community outside of Chicago. The opportunity to attend a prestigious maths and science boarding school made Jackson see how important a quality education was to leverage opportunities for low-income students. For Jackson, it meant a full scholarship to Princeton with the help of the QuestBridge scholarship.

In his sophomore year, Jackson ran for, and was elected, student body president -- a title that usually went to upperclassmen. He used his role to open up the floor to conversations about diversity, policy, and student struggles at Princeton and other Ivies.

This past summer, Jackson interned in the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs, supporting the Cabinet secretary and deputy Cabinet secretary with daily logistics. He also used the opportunity to coordinate a domestic policy interest group for interns to speak with senior White House officials about their career paths. Jackson also got to introduce Michelle Obama at an intern speaker series event.

The summer before, Jackson interned remotely for the State Department, and he has also held internships with the Children's Defence Fund and the Organisation for Youth Empowerment.

When Jackson graduates in May, he hopes to work at a nonprofit, teach English in Latin America for a year, or get involved in public service in Washington. He ultimately plans to pursue a career either in politics or in education equality for marginalized populations.

Now let's see what West Coast kids are up to.

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