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  Student to Student  Program Updates  Student Activities  | Instructor Q & A  |  In the News

   Misha Raffiee - Davidson Academy Alumna

What have you been doing since graduating from the Davidson Academy of Nevada in 2010?
After graduating from the Davidson Academy at age 15, I enrolled at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) as a double major in bioengineering, and business economics and management. I've had the opportunity to collaborate with world-class faculty on research projects in biofuel development as an Undergraduate Research Fellow at Caltech; in HIV antibody therapy as an Amgen Scholar; and in earthquake engineering as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Network for Earthquake Engineering Stimulation (NEES) Undergraduate Research Fellow at the University of Nevada, Reno. In addition, since July 2014, I have been pursuing an independent research project into jellyfish propulsion and healing mechanisms as a research scientist at Caltech.

During my undergraduate years, I was elected a member of the national engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi; awarded Caltech’s prestigious Deans’ Cup; competed as an NCAA athlete in swimming and water polo; and continued to pursue my passion for violin performance as concertmaster of the Caltech-Occidental Symphony Orchestra, two-time winner of the orchestra's concerto competition, and professional violinist with the Santa Monica Symphony. I was also honored as the sole recipient of Caltech's Beckman Political Internship in 2012 to pursue a policy internship in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office in Washington, D.C. Through this internship, I provided support on a number of scientific issues and consulted on the Senator-sponsored STEM Smart Conference geared towards strengthening K-12 education in STEM fields.

I also co-founded Caltech InnoWorks in 2011, a for-student by-student initiative to provide underserved middle school students with outstanding and free hands-on educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As InnoWorks Director this past year, I successfully managed and coordinated a weeklong day camp for 60 students, passing on my love for teaching and research in science and engineering to future generations of InnoWorkers.

What are your plans for the future?
In the fall, I will attend a Ph.D. program in bioengineering at Stanford University, where I plan to pursue research projects with strong roots in medicine. Eventually, I aspire to either lead my own lab as a research professor or to be a pioneering leader in the biotech industry, conducting research that will lead to groundbreaking developments in disease therapy.

You recently gave a TEDx talk at the University of Nevada, Reno, called "Engage and Embrace Your Natural Curiosity by Asking 'Why?'” How did you come up with this topic?
From a young age, developing and using my natural curiosity has always been something very near and dear to me, and as I've gotten older, I continued to cultivate an appreciation for digging deeper and asking more "why?" questions. I also became interested in whether there are known scientific bases for the positive effects of curiosity on the brain, and I felt that the TEDx stage was a perfect venue for me to share these exciting scientific discoveries and my own experiences and successes with developing and using natural curiosity. Through my TEDx talk, I hope to encourage people from all over the world to challenge themselves to become confident in asking questions and let that confidence feed into a desire to ask deeper questions and develop new ideas. Watch Misha's TEDx talk.


   Davidson Academy Program Updates

The Right Fit for You?

While the deadline to submit applications for the 2015-2016 school year has passed, it’s not too early to think about 2016-2017. If you are looking for an environment to better fit your social and academic needs, The Davidson Academy of Nevada may be the place for you!

If you are interested in applying to The Davidson Academy for the 2016-2017 school year, the application will be posted this summer. Please review the Qualification Criteria and How to Apply pages of our website for more information. The Academy is specifically designed to meet the needs of profoundly gifted middle and high school students who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ or college entrance tests. On the Application Review Process page, you will find detailed information about the on-site assessment.

Upcoming Tours for Prospective Students - New Dates Announced!

At Davidson Academy tours, prospective students and their parents meet current Academy students, parents, faculty and staff, and ask specific questions about the school.

Upcoming school tours will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the following Fridays:
  • Sept. 18, 2015
  • Oct. 23, 2015
  • Nov. 20, 2015
  • Dec. 11, 2015
  • Jan. 29, 2016
  • Feb. 19, 2016
For details, including directions to The Davidson Academy and RSVP information, please visit the Tours page. If you would like more information, please contact us at

   Student Activities

Academy Students Visit America Matters Media

Davidson Academy students Gabriel Angres, Ana Perez-McKay, Ethan Lu and Julia Nai recently visited Reno radio station American Matters Media to discuss their Venture Lab class. The students were lauded for creating innovative business ideas as part of the class.

State MathCounts Competition

After finishing in first place at the Northern Nevada Mathcounts Chapter Competition, the Davidson Academy MATHCOUNTS team had a fantastic performance at the State Competition! The Academy team, comprised of nine students, achieved second place in the Team Competition. All of the students did a great job representing themselves and the Academy. Here are the results for each of our student competitors:
  • 1st place – Jason Liu
  • 6th place – Ethan Lu
  • 11th Place – Derek Chien
  • 18th Place – Ashwin Murty
  • 26th Place – Winston Zeng
  • 27th Place – Shashank Addagarla
  • 36th Place – Asher Hansen
  • 38th Place – Vivek Yanamadula

Western Nevada Regional Science and Engineering Fair

A number of Academy students competed in the Western Nevada Regional Science and Engineering Fair with excellent results.
  • Rinik Kumar earned first place in the high school physical science category (first place overall) and won two specialty awards. He also was selected to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) in Pittsburgh next month.
  • Oliver Leitner earned second place in the high school engineering category (third place overall) and won two specialty awards. He also was selected to compete at Intel ISEF in May.
  • Yatin Chandar earned third place in the middle school engineering category and won two specialty awards. Additionally, he was selected to be an observer at Intel ISEF.


The Davidson Academy's DECA team recently traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the Nevada State Career Development Conference and did extremely well, competing in various events related to business, marketing, finance and entrepreneurship. Students were recognized in the following categories:
  • Business Finance Series: Haydn Bradstreet (1st place)
  • Business Law and Ethics: Arturo Guzman and Anna Hayes (3rd place)
  • Business Services Operations Research: Nadia Tung, Bella Noonen, and Julia Nai (1st place)
  • Human Resources Management: Vandana Ravikumar (2nd place), Maya Gupta (1st place)
  • Marketing Communications: Ameen Homayoon and Forrest Karo (3rd place)
  • Principles of Business Management and Administration: Hayley Haas (1st place)
  • Principles of Finance: Paolo Adajar (3rd place), Julia Nai (2nd place), Rinik Kumar (1st place)
  • Principle of Hospitality: Pranit Nanda (2nd place), Taryn Apel (1st place)
  • Principles of Marketing: Bella Noonen (3rd place)
  • Further congratulations also go out to Maya Gupta for being elected this year's DECA Vice President of Northern Nevada!

Davidson Academy Extravaganza

The first annual Davidson Academy Extravaganza was a casual celebration in support and honor of the students and faculty of the Davidson Academy benefitting the Educational Opportunities Fund. It was a spectacular night all around! To donate any time to the Davidson Academy Educational Opportunities Fund, visit the Donate page on the the Academy website.

Student Accomplishments

Congratulations to the following Davidson Academy students for these recent accomplishments:
  • Juliana Bogert, Caelan Caudell, Grace Hong, Ryan Mann, Katherine Oakley, Emmy Tian and Lindsey Zeising have been selected as finalists for the National Merit Scholarship.
  • Haydn Bradstreet, Ryan Brown and Eric Liu qualified as semifinalists in the USA Biology Olympiad (USABO), the only students in Nevada to earn this accomplishment.
  • Seniors Juliana Bogert, Grace Hong, John Laughlin and Lindsey Zeising were named candidates for the 2015 Presidential Scholars Program, and may qualify to be among the 141 scholars headed to Washington, D.C. this summer.
  • The Academy FIRST Young Robotic Engineers (FYRE) team of Riley Breuner, Connor Novak, Tim Novak, Matt Oakley, Wendy Thompson, Si Chiang Wu, Justin Zeising, and Val Zvyagin competed in a regional competition in Las Vegas against 41 other teams, winning the Rookie Inspiration Award for inspiring respect and understanding of engineering in their community, along with being the only rookie team to make it to the elimination rounds of the competition.

   Meet Ms. Smith Barrios, Humanities Instructor

How long have you taught at the Academy, and how has the school changed since you started?
I came to the Academy in 2009 as an electives instructor. Except for the 2012-2013 school year, I've been here every year since 2009 in some capacity. Over the years, the Academy has become more digital. I most recently came back as an online instructor, and now I teach both online and in the brick-and-mortar school.

Generally, what is your average class size?
I'd say fewer than 10.

What are a few of the more interesting or challenging projects that you have assisted Academy students with?
Several years ago, I had students come up with propaganda campaigns as a project for Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. That was fun, and one of the posters from that project still adorns a classroom wall here. Right now, my online composition class is putting together digital magazines. That's been a learning experience for me (even though I assigned it), and I think it's only going to get more interesting as we near the process of putting the magazines together. Writing, in general, is always a challenge, but I'm a total nerd in that I really enjoy the process of responding to student writing.


   In the News

For the fifth consecutive year, the Davidson Academy has been ranked as one of the nation's "Top-performing schools with elite students" by the Washington Post's education columnist Jay Mathews. The 25 alphabetically-listed schools were excluded from the main Washington Post High School Challenge list of the best high schools in America because, "despite their exceptional quality, their admission rules and standardized test scores indicate they have few or no average students".

“When I first came to the Academy, one of my biggest concerns was making new friends . . . On my first day, I realized that everyone was very friendly, witty, and overall lots of fun to hang around with. Stereotypically, it may seem that the intelligence level would hinder the social environment; however, at the Academy it just makes the social conversation more interesting and fun.”

Amanda Bak, Fourth Year Davidson Academy Student


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