The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

Senior Spotlight: Joanna Sohn


If there is one person who never ceases to amaze with their kindness, commitment to academics and community, and work ethic, it’s Joanna Sohn. First joining the Keystone community in fourth grade, Joanna has embedded herself in the heart of Keystone’s clubs, classes, and traditions. She is currently the Math Club president, Co-Editor in Chief of Litmag, president of National Honor Society, and has been treasurer of the Class of 2024 throughout high school. Her favorite Keystone event has been Valentine’s Day, the most challenging yet memorable tradition of the Junior year. She has loved every day she’s been at Keystone, and her favorite part about the school has been how close-knit the community is and how well she’s gotten to know friends and teachers alike.


Her hobbies include crocheting, writing poetry (her poems have been accepted by Scholastic, Pegasus, and America Library of Poetry), and painting. She’s played the flute since second grade, becoming an all-state flute finalist just last year. She also enjoys coding and was a 2023 winner of the Congressional App Challenge for her app “Stress Scope”. She has been very active in giving back to the community, having volunteered with Camp CAMP for the past few years, volunteering at different hospitals, working as a teaching assistant for the middle school Math Club, and co-founding the organization YouthSTEM. 


Joanna has been a part of competitive science fair since sixth grade. She went to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) her freshman year, but due to Covid, it was virtual. In her junior year, however, she attended in person. For her science fair project, she looked for ways to mitigate damage caused by impaired vision and researched how impaired vision increases the risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke, a correlation that she tested by modeling it in fruit flies. Her science fair was interconnected with her Stonecatcher project last year, both of them relating to visual impairment. She researched sudden causes of vision loss (with a focus on diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration), how many sight problems remain incurable, and ways to increase education and awareness. She volunteered with organizations focusing on eye care such as the Mobile Eye Screening Unit and was the first author of a review paper summarizing current research on DNA damage and repair in eye diseases published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.


During previous summers, Joanna completed a three-credit Human Biology course with the University of Vermont, a course in chemistry and medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and a three-credit college course on organic chemistry at UC Berkeley last summer and fall. She was chosen as one of ten students in Texas to attend the Welch Summer Scholars program at UT Austin, a residential five-week program where she was able to do hands-on research in a professional laboratory and work with PhD candidate students. She chose to research CsrA (a small RNA binding protein that inhibits or indirectly activates transcription and translation in E. coli) and study the “development of an orthogonal CsrA system with expanded binding specificity, enabling greater control over gene expression” for her project, which she presented at the end of the five weeks.


Joanna says one of the biggest lessons she’s learned so far is that not everything one does has to be a part of academics and that spending time with friends and doing things that make one happy are equally as important. She recounts how academics became how she identified with herself for a long time (especially during and after the pandemic), but she’s realized it doesn’t need to be the only priority of one’s life. 


There are a few fun facts most people might not know about Joanna. One is that she has a bit of a black thumb with growing plants, managing to kill even succulents. She also lived for around two years in Baltimore, Maryland, and another six years in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  


She says her favorite Keystone trip was the DC trip junior year, where everyone was given freedom to visit different places that interested them on their own and spend more time with friends. She is not a big fan of hiking, so it was a nice change from spending so much time in the wilderness on previous outdoor excursions.


Some of her favorite memories with friends at Keystone revolve around experiences off campus, such as frequent food excursions, particularly to Extra Fine and Lily’s Cookies (which she and some friends had to sprint back to class from in just a few minutes once during junior year).


Interviewing Joanna was such a fun and easygoing experience. She is a wonderful person to be around who greets those around her with a smile and welcoming persona. Joanna plans to major in chemistry in college, as she loves chemistry and organic chemistry, and she’s wanted to be a physician since she was six years old. She’s been an integral part of the Keystone community, and she is excited for the new journey college will introduce. She is excited to meet new people and form parts of new campus traditions, as well as to get involved in different clubs, such as those related to orchestra or band, painting or digital art, and even studying abroad. Without a doubt, Joanna will be a talented and impactful part of whichever college she decides to attend and whichever career path she chooses. 

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About the Contributor
Annia Gimeno Marko
Annia Gimeno Marko, Junior Editor In Chief
Annia is a junior at Keystone School and an active writer and editor of the Keynote, as well as the co-president of the World Language Club. Her hobbies include reading, writing, playing the violin, and doing ballet. She enjoys learning about different cultures and cuisines and is interested psychology, entertainment, and current events.

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    Ann ParkhutstFeb 12, 2024 at 4:41 pm

    My husband, Dr. Brian R. Parkhurst, and I (Ann) have considered it a real privilege and joy to know Joanna since her birth. Her mother (Soon/Sarah) has been like a daughter to us, so, we are called “Grandma and Grandpa”! We, Joanna and her great parents acknowledge that her giftedness comes from God. Thank you for highlighting Joanna–a truly remarkable person.