John DeForest let his natural curiosity and drive to excel take the lead while he was attending St. George’s School, harnessing both to score a perfect score on two of his International Baccalaureate exams and place in the top 17% of IB students worldwide.
DeForest said the International Baccalaureate classes he took in school are similar to Advanced Placement classes in that the content is more rigorous and students must pass an exam at the end of the class. But the IB program includes more classes than the AP program, and IB students must also be scored on a large Capstone project.
“I chose it because I wanted to take the most rigorous classes,” DeForest said. “I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. I just wanted to challenge myself.”
He had heard from other St. George’s students that the IB classes were interesting, something he found to be true when he took them.
“I really liked all of them,” he said.
However, his favorite classes were biology and chemistry. In those classes, he was able to pursue interesting projects, and his teachers encouraged him to explore, he said.
“They were less like lecturers and more like mentors,” he said.
In his biology classes, he used drones to count trees and map forests. Forest mapping is usually done on foot, DeForest said.
“I thought there should be a better way to count forests,” he said.
That project got him interested in data science and computer science. Though he still hasn’t decided what career to pursue, he has a better idea of what interests him, DeForest said. He picked his college, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, partly because it has a remote sensing lab.
DeForest said he was looking for a liberal arts college that also had engineering and applied science options. Dartmouth fit the bill. There are also plenty of Nordic skiing opportunities in New Hampshire, which is a favorite pastime for him.
For his Capstone project, DeForest studied the heavy metals on the bottom of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The metals were swept into the lake decades ago during mining operations and settled to the bottom. DeForest said he’d heard about the contamination and wanted to learn more about the risk.
Also on the bottom of the lake is a layer of ash from the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
“I found that the ash layer blocks these heavy metals,” he said.
DeForest said he enjoyed all the research projects he did, including his Capstone project.
“I’m pretty proud of the research and the work that I did,” he said.
His hard work was reflected in his IB scores. He scored 40 out of a possible 45, including two perfect scores of seven. Those high scores were in biology and chemistry.
However, IB scores were done a bit differently this year, DeForest said. The COVID-19 pandemic meant students weren’t able to take the usual tests, so instead each student’s project and work was evaluated.
“The IB did their own scoring method,” he said.
Though it is his last summer before college, he’s not spending it at the lake or at the beach. He prefers to be exploring and learning.
DeForest is spending his summer as an intern with a climate research center that is working to monitor forests and arctic thaw.
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