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Last March, Noah Lee ’20 was enjoying his senior year at Harley. Accepted into Yale University, he was feeling relaxed, and looking forward to “senior spring” a time filled with fun and meaningful end-of-year activities like the Oak Tree Ceremony, Honors Assembly, senior skip day, and Commencement, spending some quality time with friends, and focusing on his upcoming senior violin recital. All those plans came to an abrupt stop due to the Covid-19 pandemic shut down. He says it was pretty disappointing, but as we all did, he made the best of it.

Looking forward to starting college in the fall, he received notification from Yale that while they were going to allow the Freshman class to come to campus for the first semester, they planned to go remote for the second. The students had a choice, take a chance coming to campus and experiencing an interruption mid-year, or take a gap year. The students had a two-week window to decide. Noah, planning to go the pre-med route in college, immediately began calling neuroscience labs in the area to see if they had any internships available. If he was going to take a gap year, he wanted it to be a productive one. He found a great match at the University of Rochester and informed Yale that he would see them in the fall of 2021.

His work at the neuroscience lab focuses on chronic pain and how it relates to neural mechanisms and they use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to measure this. Noah’s job is twofold. He does recruitment, screenings, and subject visits for the lab’s ongoing studies as well as analyzing data in hopes of publishing a paper. He is learning a lot.

The unplanned gap year has been fulfilling workwise and with more time at home, he has been given some extended family time and that’s been nice. He’s also had more time for his music. Noah has been playing the piano since he was four years old and the violin since he was five. He was an active member of the music program at Harley in the string orchestra, participated in the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and has been awarded most recently for his violin playing at the David Hochstein Recital Competition and the Penfield Symphony Orchestra’s Jo Amish Young Artist Competition. He had planned to stop piano lessons after he started college, but due to his gap year, he is excited to have one more year of lessons under his belt.

Noah has also had the chance to come back to Harley to share his experience and help out. As a new student joining Harley his sophomore year, he joined Harley’s biomimicry club run by Betsy Vinton (Upper School Math, 2001 – present) half-way through the year and by his senior year, co-ran the club. The biomimicry club looks for new innovative solutions to solve real-life problems, inspired by nature. His senior year, the club submit a proposal for creating breakwaters inspired by algae to stop erosion and harness the wave energy from the motion of the flexible and durable algae. Normally breakwaters are man-made and solely stop the incoming waves to stop erosion. Their submission made it to the competition finals. Now, his sister, Rebecca ’24, a freshman, is involved in Harley’s biomimicry program and he came to Harley a few weeks ago and joined the class as they put the finishing touches on their final project. Their project is on ways to collect water to stop erosion.

This summer, with Yale on the horizon, Noah says he needs to get reacquainted with studying. He has not been in an actual class for quite some time and he plans to get together with some friends to review calculus and more. Once at Yale, on top of his pre-med neuroscience studies, he is considering a double major or minor in music and will continue taking violin lessons and join the orchestra and chamber music groups. With such resilience and focus, we know that Noah can accomplish anything!