Christine Hamilton, originally from Stow, graduated from Minuteman High School in 2013 as the class Valedictorian after majoring in Environmental Science. She was also involved in the Drama Club, Cross-Country Team, and SkillsUSA, where she was named Outstanding Vocational Technical Student of the Year. After high school, Christine attended Smith College in Northampton to study mechanical engineering. She now attends Stanford University in California to obtain a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics. In early 2021, she was involved in a research project in orbital mechanics – involving satellites in outer space.
Q. Why did you decide to attend Minuteman High School?
When I was in eighth grade, I went on a tour of Minuteman. I looked at the Environmental Science shop and it had all the aquariums and tanks. They were raising an endangered species of turtles. It seemed like a very interesting program where I’d do a lot of hands-on, science type things, and have a lot of interesting opportunities that I wouldn’t normally get at a traditional high school. I always liked science. When I was a kid, I was really interested in marine biology. As time went on, I moved into engineering and aerospace.
Q. Which clubs or activities were you involved with at Minuteman?
I was in the Drama Club for all four years. The program was awesome. We performed in Steel Magnolias, Curious Savage and The Butler Did It. I really liked acting and the friend group I made. It was intense – we’d meet four days a week from December to March – but the plays always came together really well. The sets always looked great. The drama teacher, Mr. Donovan, put a lot of effort into the program. I also did cross-country for two years and SkillsUSA for all four years, and I went to the national competition all four years. I won two silver medals and one bronze.
Q. What did you like the most about the Environmental Science major at Minuteman?
I really loved all the different types of projects. We used to take field trips into the woods to find different kinds of insects and figure out what they were. Another time, we designed boxed fish traps that we used to catch fish and crabs off a pier in Boston. That was very cool. For my junior year, I did a project for SkillsUSA in which I’d collect algae from a nearby stream and use it for biofuel. I did the whole chemical process of setting that up with an algae-growing tank. For my senior project, I looked at the effects of fertilizer on eel grass.
Q. How did Minuteman prepare you for college?
Academically, I was really well prepared. I was a little nervous about that at first – I didn’t get into AP classes until my senior year – but it turned out to be fine. I had a very good math and science background from Minuteman which was useful. The projects and hands-on experiences were useful too.
Q. What do you like about engineering?
I like the problem-solving aspect of it. In engineering, a lot of things are completely new, and you’re attacking it very logically and in a problem-solving way to try to make something work. You treat everything as being possible. It’s a lot of fun – the design aspect, the problem-solving. The space satellite research I’m doing now is all stuff that’s never been done before.
Q. Tell us about your current space research at Stanford University.
I’m on a research team that looks at orbital mechanics. Picture swarms of spacecraft with a few little satellites in conjunction – how you operate the control, navigation, design, and flight paths is basically orbital mechanics. The particular project I’m working on is with NASA for a mission they’re considering for a few years from now. Basically, they want to get better images of stars from Earth. The end result would be a lot cheaper than flying the Hubble Telescope to get those images, so it’s a really big deal.
Q. What advice would you give to students considering enrolling at Minuteman?
Minuteman helped me decide what I wanted to do after high school and beyond. Take the opportunities, join the clubs, participate in things. You never know what you’re interested in unless you go for it.