Natalia Orlovskya molecular biology concentrator from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, was selected as the Best of the Year in Princeton’s Class of 2022. Frances Mangina, a Toronto-based philosophy concentrator, was appointed salutator. The Princeton faculty accepted the nominations of the faculty examinations and standings committee at its April 25 meeting.
The start of the Class of 2022 will take place on Tuesday, May 24th at Princeton Stadium. Orlovsky and Mangina are expected to give a speech at the ceremony.
A true Renaissance woman, Princeton’s valedictorian has proven to be an exceptional scholar and researcher, also acting in plays and writing stories and poetry while earning an A+ 10 in courses from six different departments, including English and Psychology and Molecular Biology (her major) and Quantitative and Computational Biology (their certificate program). At Princeton, A+ grades require written justifications from the professors. Over the course of her four years, Orlovsky never received a grade below an A.
She was nominated for the role of Best in Class by Elizabeth Gavis, Princeton’s Damon B. Pfeiffer Professor of Life Sciences and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Molecular Biology. Citing superlative recognition from several professors, Gavis concluded, “Natalia has demonstrated a wide intellectual engagement in both coursework and independent research, and a level of scholarship characteristic of an outstanding graduate student, that of an undergraduate.” is rarely found in undergraduate studies.”
She is a two-time recipient of the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and an early candidate for Phi Beta Kappa. In 2021 she received a Goldwater Fellowship, one of the most prestigious national fellowships in science, engineering and mathematics. Orlovsky served on the peer review panel of the Princeton Undergraduate Research Journal and served as an undergraduate assistant in both Organic Chemistry and Introductory Data Science. During her career at Princeton, she has been involved with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center in various capacities, including as a member of the Princeton Pride Alliance.
Since the spring of her freshman year at Princeton, Orlovsky has worked in the bioengineering lab of Cliff Brangwynne, Princeton’s June K. Wu ’92 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Her research with him culminated in her thesis, which examines how two different proteins help determine the physical properties (or “sloppiness”) of the nucleus, which in turn influences how easily cells can crawl through narrow passages – for example in cancer metastasis.
“I love the style of questioning that science uses — It’s really fun to build a conceptual foundation and then test it with quantitative work and hands-on experiments,” Orlovsky said. “I really enjoyed thinking about the mechanics of the core. I especially love how tactile my project is – a lot of it involves literally taking cells and crushing them. With the advent of things like atomic force microscopy, we have tools that you can literally use to poke things that you can’t see with the naked eye!”
“I couldn’t be more excited for Natalia,” Brangwynne said. “Even as a freshman, she acted like a new and very good graduate student. student.” He said she produced the most impressive thesis from his lab, and her data were potentially significant enough to be included in two publications, one of which would recognize her as first author, a rare feat for a student.
This fall, Orlovsky will begin her PhD in Biological and Biomedical Studies at Harvard. She is looking forward to a career in academic research and is particularly excited by the prospect of being an educator and mentor in the lab and classroom.
“While she plays a part in her next adventures,” Brangwynne said, “Natalia represents a shining example of the best that a Princeton education has to offer the world.”
A strong interest in the arts complements Orlovsky’s commitment to science. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in literary magazines and she has acted in many theater productions and served on the board of Theater Intime. “I’m interested in theater — and creative writing, by the way — mostly because I love making up and telling stories,” she said. “I think I’ve particularly enjoyed my involvement in the theater community here because it’s so intertwined with the broader LGBTQ+ community on campus.”
Orlovky said that her Modern and International Drama courses, both taught by Class of 1970 playwright Robert N. Sandberg, “profoundly changed my thinking about theater and particularly the role of empathy in storytelling; They have also made me a stronger communicator, a better theater maker, and a happier, more hopeful person.”
In addition to her philosophy concentration, Mangina is pursuing a certificate in the language and culture of Ancient Rome. Princeton’s greeting is traditionally in Latin.
“It’s fascinating to read words that have endured for so long and to get a glimpse into the mysterious lives of these people,” she said. “There are so many levels of holistic beauty and intellectual beauty and mystery and excitement.”
In the fall, Mangina will complete a master’s degree in ancient philosophy at Oxford University, funded by the highly competitive Ertegun Scholarship, before pursuing a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago.
Her interest in classical studies was stimulated by an immersive summer of Latin studies between high school and college and validated by her experience in the liberal arts sequence during her freshman year at Princeton.
“Studying Liberal Arts at Princeton has brought joy to my life and shaped the way I see the world,” said Mangina. “My mental reading list is also getting longer by the day, which is exciting (if a bit daunting).”
In addition to being excellent at Latin, Mangina reads and speaks French and German, and has become a scholar of Greek. In May 2021 she won the Stinneke Examination Prize, awarded to the student or junior who performs best in an examination based on the Odes of Horace. the Eclogues of Virgil; Latin grammar and prosody; the Anabasis of Xenophon; Plato’s Euthyphro, Crito, Apology and Phaedo; and Greek grammar.
Her thesis combines her love of the classics, philosophy and literature in a study of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, which she is conducting with Daniel Heller-Roazen, Arthur W. Marks’ 19 Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton.
Mangina was awarded the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence after her freshman year at Princeton and was an early acceptor of Phi Beta Kappa in Fall 2021 – the same semester she traveled to Athens to study a Byzantine chapel. She is a member of First College, the Glee Club, the Chamber Choir and Early Princeton Music. She is also a Humanities Mentor, a Fellow of the Writing Center and Associate Editor of Tortoise: A Journal of Writing Pedagogy.
She said her most vivid memory of her time at Princeton was the “disorienting” days just before classes on campus ended in March 2020, in the spring of her sophomore year. “Overall, the most important part of Princeton has been the friends I’ve made, and just how deep those friendships were was evident in how we bonded at the start of the pandemic — how painful but beautiful it was.”