As North Carolina high school student Graham Shunk was wrapping up a virtual Russian course in August 2020, a journalist from the Russian-language television channel NTV-America reached out to invite him to give an interview–in Russian–for an article on his innovative research on the protective features of a fungus growing in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a project on which Shunk has collaborated with scholars from Stanford and NASA.
The research, which has already been covered in Business Insider, CNET, and other media outlets, presents evidence that the Chernobyl fungus may protect astronauts against the harmful effects of radiation in space.
Shunk’s involvement with this project and his interview with NTV-America jointly highlight the interconnectedness of his Russian-language development and professional development.
After having studied Russian for two years in high school, Shunk was one of 450+ U.S. high school students to be awarded a scholarship from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) to study a critical language during the 2020 virtual summer intensive (VSI) program.
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