2023 Students of Distinction

Eliana Dietrich already making her mark as a researcher

Posted on May 12th, 2023 By:

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Student: Eliana Dietrich

School: Gig Harbor High School

Category: Academic Achievement

For the past two summers, Eliana Dietrich has worked as a paid intern and research assistant at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. Her work has focused on analyzing the results of clinical trials in oncology. She also helped co-author a manuscript currently in publication in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Her internships have fueled her desire to earn a Ph.D. and become a biostatistician. So this fall, she’ll study computer science at University of Washington, possibly with a double major in either applied mathematics or statistics.

Well rounded accomplishments

The internships were just two of Eliana’s accomplishments. She was also in the top 10 in the state for medical math (twice) and epidemiology. She was a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist and president and secretary of HOSA, an organization of future health professionals.

Add to that her junior black belt in taekwondo and two years dancing in a local ballet company and it’s clear that Eliana has had a well-rounded high school experience.

Being involved with school clubs has been her favorite thing at GHHS. “The community and environment you’re able to build just from being around some of these kids for hours (like with speech and debate or Knowledge Bowl) isn’t something you’re necessarily able to recreate organically, because it allows you to connect with people you might have never had the opportunity to interact with before,” she said.

Finding balance

Because she tends to go full force in everything she does, her biggest challenges came from finding balance between schoolwork and her various interests.

“A lot of high school comes down to balance,” she said. “Figuring out that it is literally physically impossible and mentally unhealthy to continue the amount of pressure I would put on myself was a tough realization, and one I’m still working through. But these past few years have really allowed me to test the waters and experience what the extreme felt like so I could then identify a comfortable (yet still challenging) equilibrium.”

Eliana is proud of the fact that she “took it upon myself to reach out to multiple professors and initiate internship discussions until I connected with an amazing mentor who has allowed me to work as her research assistant analyzing oncology-focused clinical trials.”

On a personal note, she’s also proud of the confidence she has gained in high school. “I’ve always been very introverted,” she said. “I’ve had to grow a lot, especially considering that I moved high schools in senior year. That took a lot of effort and belief in myself to create a support system in such a short time, and through it all I’ve really discovered my voice (and the fact that I do actually enjoy talking in front of/to people). I’ve come a long way from shy freshman me.”

Honors and advice

Her mentor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center called Eliana “one of the very best students I have ever mentored, at any level. She is a stronger and more independent researcher than any of the dozens of undergraduates I have mentored.”

Eliana’s advice to younger students as they start high school is to “commit, and don’t be afraid to get involved. Commit to your grades, to your goals, to whatever you may see for yourself in the future and make sure you’re taking concrete steps to get there. Time is going to fly way faster than you would think, and you don’t want the majority of your high school experience to pass you by as you focus on short term gratification. And along those same lines, if there’s anything that even remotely catches your interest, get involved. You’re never tied to anything, but the best way to build your community is to start from the beginning when everyone else is still establishing themselves as well. It’s better to have tried and realized it’s not something you like as much as you thought, than to look back with regret at all the things you could have joined or done.”

Eliana Dietrich

Parents: Jonathan & Melinda Dietrich

Activities/Accomplishments: GPA  4.0; 14 AP courses; AP Scholar of Distinction and Capstone Diploma; National Merit scholarship semi-finalist; Student of the Quarter – 2x; National Speech & Debate Association member with excellence; HOSA president, secretary; Top 10 in State for medical math (2x) and epidemiology; National Honor Society; Knowledge Bowl varsity captain; Book Club founder; junior black belt in taekwondo; paid internship and research assistant to a biostatistician at Fred Hutch

Favorite teacher: Mr. Stitt. “Not only is his passion for teaching and sharing information infectious, making his classroom an energetic and exciting place to learn, but he’s one of the main teachers to whole-heartedly support me in my passion for STEM wherever it may take me.”

Best thing about GHHS: “The sense of community. I switched schools senior year which was a large change to say the least, but I’ve been able to find/create a place for myself in the overwhelmingly active clubs and school life.”