By Terp Staff
UMD welcomes nearly 6,000 freshmen and transfer students each year—a smart, curious and fearless group that this fall includes a nationally ranked table tennis player, an award-winning filmmaker and a gaming website creator. This weekend, they all arrive on campus to start their unique Maryland journeys. Meet just a handful of these intrepid Terps:
Donald de Alwis
Silver Spring, Md.
Donald de Alwis has appreciated nature since he was a kid frolicking in the woods behind his home, but he didn’t pick up a camera until a family vacation in middle school. By age 16, he he’d won several national awards for his documentary on sewage in the Anacostia River, with its broader message about polluted river systems nationwide. The environmental science and policy major hopes to use photos as a channel to promote conservation. “Nature and photography are essential to my personal peace,” he says. De Alwis is using his documentary winnings to launch a program for child amputees in his native Sri Lanka, and fund physical therapy, educational grants and school supplies.
As a high school sophomore, Justin Danziger merged his lifelong passions for sports and writing in a big way. He became one of the youngest sports reporters for SB Nation, a national sports news website, where he racks up thousands of hits on his game recaps, player analyses and articles about the Oklahoma City Thunder. At 16, he even attended the NBA draft and interviewed Kevin Durant, Billy Donovan and Andrew Wiggins. The journalism major says his favorite part is getting his “voice heard by readers as passionate about basketball” as he is.
Seth Eisenberg first stepped onto a gymnastics mat six years ago in part to practice talking to girls. Since then, the acrobat has tumbled, stunted and danced in choreographed floor routines, winning three national gold medals. Eisenberg made the national team in his fourth year, but he turned down the offer because competing abroad would’ve required too many school absences. The former high school cheerleader plans to major in history and chemistry because “both have such an impact on our lives, so there’s always ways to apply them.”
Gamer Dylan Housman is playing to win as an entrepreneur. He spent three years in high school as “TacticalOyster” on YouTube, where he was paid to publish videos of game reviews, tips and commentaries for his audience of nearly 2,000 subscribers. From early 2015 to spring 2016, he and a friend ran Devoid Gaming, a website where users can play popular games like Call of Duty, League of Legends and FIFA with players around the world at a competitive level. The business and government and politics double major says he’ll keep fusing video games and business so he can “be my own boss and do my creative thing rather than be just another cog in a big machine.”
Nathan Hsu is ranked among the nation’s Top 16 table tennis players, since defeating the 2014 U.S. champion last year. He picked up a paddle for the first time at age 4 and has since competed around the world, including Austria, Hong Kong, Taiwan and 11 U.S. states. “A huge part is focusing on fundamentals like footwork, center of gravity, timing and tactics. It’s very important to keep things simple,” he says. After graduating from high school, Hsu took two years off to train in China. Though he didn’t make the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, he plans to join the UMD club team and pursue a berth in the 2020 Games.
Max Niebylski first dived into the world of web development in middle school, when he created a simple game called Save the Bubbles. His first public app, SplitCalc, which he released in 9th grade, measures various rowing techniques. Today, the computer science major is designing an app aimed to encourage political engagement and voting, and he’s finishing up weight-tracking software for the National Institutes of Health. “The best part is seeing a problem—either in a code or an everyday issue—and finding a way to fix it through computers.”
While undergoing immunosuppression therapy for her aplastic anemia, Maiu Romano-Verthelyi missed a lot of school “for fear of catching something—anything,” she says. While at home, she discovered her passion for painting. Now she plans to use her naturally steady hands to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery or forensic pathology. The biology major and College Park Arts Scholars program member is now healthy and says her love of symmetry, color and hands-on projects helps her visualize anatomy and biological systems. “It’s just really clear for me, and I’m sure my artistic side has helped that.”
Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.
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