Most kids have a “why” phase, but Harrison Tasoff’s was both particularly intense and long lasting.
“I was constantly asking why, even to the extent of annoying people. I constantly wanted to know why things worked the way they worked, and how they worked, and science started answering those questions for me,” Tasoff said.
By his senior year at New Community Jewish High School, he had already passed the AP physics exam and completed the school’s science curriculum. He took a geology class at Pierce College, where he learned more about his mineral collection.
Tasoff’s love for science and math, particularly physics, ties into his love for philosophy, because, he said, they all try to answer the same fundamental questions about existence.
Tasoff is president of his school’s philosophy club and plans to major in physics and minor in philosophy at Swarthmore College.
He founded a chapter of the National Honor Society at his school last fall.
“My academics are akin to other people’s sports. I take pride in them, they are my achievements, and I thought for me and people like me it was important to have an organization that recognized academics,” Tasoff said.
But despite his school smarts and his quirkiness — he curses in noble gases (“Oh, Aragon!”) — Tasoff said he has never felt like or been treated like a nerd. “People have always respected me. I think they see that I’m very interested and excited not only about learning things for myself, but sharing what I’ve learned with other people,” he said.
Tasoff also fences, sketches and makes wire sculpture. He volunteers with Haverim, a program for developmentally disabled adults, and puts in time with the Celiac Disease Foundation.
He is also a frequent visitor to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and his communication with executives at Trader Joe’s about sustainable seafood was part of an effort that led to product changes.
Tasoff says that one of his most relaxing endeavors is nourishing, pruning and sculpting bonsai trees. “It’s a very good way to learn patience and to learn how to project possibilities into the future — to see a tree and to be able to see what it could become, what potential it has in it,” Tasoff said.
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