Story by Hilary Kraus
Photography by Amy March, Coastline Imagery
She talks like a typical teenager, stringing words together to form one long word. She looks, dresses and accessorizes like most girls of her generation. Her hair falls at the required length of below the shoulders, her skinny jeans were meant for figures like hers and her iPhone is no more than an arm’s length away.
But talk to Olivia Joslin about goals and accomplishments and it’s hard to believe she’s only 18 years old. Singling out her crowning achievements is as challenging as boiling down her two-page, single-spaced resume into one page. However, one common theme throughout Olivia’s journey has been her commitment to science and research, most specifically, developing sustainable food for farm-raised shrimp. By her junior year at Hilton Head Island High School (HHIHS), she had already developed a product that has the potential for industrial use. “I have not talked to manufacturers,” Olivia said. “I’m not at that point in my life yet.”
Yes, there is so much for this 4.8 (GPA) student, club president and dare we say, “science geek” to do. Olivia’s research projects won first-place at HHIHS science fairs her freshman, sophomore and junior years. (She didn’t participate her senior year because of college obligations.) Olivia’s top placements also provided her the opportunity to compete at international science fairs on two occasions, where the door opened for an upcoming internship this summer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). The agency—which attends international science fairs—awarded Olivia first place, along with the opportunity of an eight-week paid internship in either Charleston, SC or Cape Cod, MA. Olivia said the job could involve doing marine research, working on site from a boat or perhaps in a lab. Lab work, beginning at the most unsophisticated form, was something Olivia was drawn to at an early age.
“I was very inquisitive when I was little,” Olivia said. “I’d do your basic baking soda and vinegar kitchen experiment with my grandfather.” Her lab partner was her maternal grandfather, Richard Stafford, who taught math and science for 35 years. As a young teen, Olivia was also inspired by Jayne Matney, a science teacher at Hilton Head Preparatory School. Olivia transferred to HHIHS her freshman year because she said she wanted more college-level courses and a larger environment. It didn’t take long for her to make an impact at her new school by starting a science club. “I’m still heading it, but I am ready to turn it over before I graduate,” she said.
At certain times in high school, Olivia was involved in nine extracurricular activities and clubs simultaneously, including president of the Student Government Association and the Science National Honor Society. Athletics and social events also have played a role in Olivia’s packed schedule. She was a cheerleader for the basketball teams, named to the homecoming court and was head of the prom committee last year. “Anything going on in our school community has Olivia’s signature on it,” said Kathryn Weatherhead, science department chairperson at HHIHS, who first taught Olivia in a 10th-grade honors class.
Olivia has devoted more than 400 hours to science research, spending a lot of time her sophomore and junior years at the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton. The experiment center of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources is one of the country’s largest in marine aqua research. For two years, Olivia tested her own study showing new sources of vegetable protein as a replacement food for farm-raised shrimp as an answer to the rising cost and short supply of fishmeal. “She’s way beyond most high school students,” said Al Stokes, manager at the center for 36 years. “I’ve only had three or four students over the last 25 years who really had a mind for this sort of thing. She also understands the background on everything she did so she can present it.”
Lately, Olivia has been presenting herself to college administrators and will decide between Wake Forest, Brandeis or one of the schools where she’s on a wait list. She sees her future working as an environmental policy analyst or possibly an environmental lawyer for the government. One thing for certain is she will leave a glowing impression on the high school level. “Olivia is really a charming young lady; interested, creative and really pleasant to be around.” Kathryn said. “I will miss her and wish I had a class full of Olivia Joslins.”
Family: father, Michael Joslin, Executive Vice President of Sales at CareCore National; mother, Kathy Joslin, background is in Information Technology; brother, Matthew, is a sophomore at Hilton Head Island High School.
You said you don’t watch much TV, are there any shows you like? “I love ‘Friends.’ I really do like the ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ It fits the science theme.”
What books do you like (textbooks don’t count)? ‘I’d say my favorite book is The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is always a good one.”
What websites do you read regularly? “I read a mixture. I read conservative sites like the Drudge Report, and then I read more liberal ones like CNN. I also read a lot of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Island Packet and MSNBC online.”