Lyme-Old Lyme senior merges love of physics with journalism
Before high school, Natalie Rugg hadn't taken classes in journalism or physics. In the fall, the Lyme-Old Lyme senior will be majoring in both at Brown University.
"I didn't actually like writing until middle school," she said. It was initially a creative writing assignment that got her interested, and the analytical papers in high school led her to journalism.
Rugg got into both the online school newspaper and the physics department at the high school through recommendations from teachers who worked with her in other capacities. William Allik, art teacher at Lyme-Old Lyme High School and one of the advisors of The Osprey, said he had worked with her in various art classes and reached out to her three years ago to help resurrect the school newspaper online.
"Natalie was there at the beginning of that move and has been instrumental in its success," he said. "We reached out to her because she had excelled in art and English and had a strong interest in journalism already, and she is just a very capable and creative young woman."
As editor in chief, Rugg leads a small staff of editors and contributors in producing news stories, features, opinion pieces and other stories on a weekly basis. She also manages the newspaper's website and publicity.
"I came to all the meetings, and I just was really passionate about it," she said. "I just started putting more and more of my time into it, and the titles came with how much effort I put into it."
Rugg's path to physics followed a similar trajectory. Glenn Elliott, physics teacher at Lyme-Old Lyme, said he met her while serving as advisor for both math team and high school bowl, an academic trivia team that competes monthly against other schools along the shoreline.
"Natalie's a great kid," he said. "As she got into physics, I saw what an outstanding student she is."
He said that while many students in high school bowl hit their stride as a sophomore or junior, largely because they've been in school longer and know more, Rugg excelled as early as the end of her freshman year. Noting her success, he encouraged her to take some of the school's physics courses.
Rugg said physics was the next step in the science curriculum as a junior, but she continued taking UConn and AP physics classes because she was fascinated by the different facets of the discipline. A visit to Brown's physics department solidified her love of the field.
"It's more of exploring what's out there, and I think that's pretty cool," she said.
While she wants to conduct general physics research in college — she said her inspiration came from a quote from Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" about leaving behind a legacy — she said she wants to pursue a career in science journalism.
"Right now, I'm confident that I want to go into journalism and science because that's where I feel like I'm needed most," she said, citing recent anti-science rhetoric in politics. "It's important that I don't shy away from it just because some people are."
Before she starts reporting on the latest astrophysical discovery, however, she had one last project to finish: a bike trip on all the back roads in Old Lyme.
The idea for her senior project came when she was learning to drive and realized that, even though she had been to other countries, she hadn't been on most of the roads in her own town.
"It's nostalgic biking down old best friends' roads, and then also sometimes it's just like, 'Wow, I had no idea something this beautiful was right in my backyard,'" she said. "I really wanted to get acquainted with my town before I have to leave it."