1 in 2,000: Misha Leyfer

by Sanjana Deshpande, Features Reporter
photo illustration by Kaila Hanna

For senior Misha Leyfer, science is more than just a school subject: the people he’s met and the lessons he’s learned have given him a unique perspective on the world that extends far beyond the lab.

“I love science because it’s something in which I will never regret investing time. There are people who I’ve met and lessons that I’ve learned that I know will never let me down,” Leyfer said. “In essence, that’s what science is: finding simplicity within the complexity of the universe. If the simplicity I’ve found is the people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned, then I have a much better understanding of the universe then when I began this journey.”

Leyfer said that middle school was when he seriously began pursuing science.

“I first started learning about environmental science when I was in sixth grade,” he said. “I found out about how much humanity has contributed to a lot of our environment’s problems, and I decided then that I wanted to do something related to environmental science, or just science in general. It was all a domino effect from there.”

Although his schedule is packed with a STEM-intensive course load including AP Environmental Science, AP Biology and AP Calculus AB, Leyfer pursues his passion for science outside of the classroom as well.

As a captain of South’s science team, Leyfer spent every Thursday J block prior to school closures debriefing relevant news with his teammates, then splitting up into events to prepare for upcoming competitions. Ever since Leyfer joined, the science team has been in the top three for the West Suburban Science League, the Science Olympiad Invitationals, the Massachusetts Science Olympiad and the Envirothon.

In reflecting on his high school career, Leyfer said that some of his favorite memories come from time spent with the science team.

“During my freshman year, we traveled to various golf courses to prove how unsustainable they are when compared with the Newton Community Farm, which is the only acre of farmland in Newton,” he said.

Leyfer said that he dabbled in new areas of science in the past year.

“This year I started TA-ing for Ms. Rosen, who’s a biology teacher,” he said. “I took care of the tanks, which had crabs and fish and other animals in a science health center. Through that, I developed a love for wildlife, which I never thought that I would have. It’s a lot different than the kinds of science that I’m used to, but it was still very interesting.”

Senior Amy Xiao, friend and co-captain of the science team, said that working with Leyfer has been a mutually beneficial experience. 

“Working with him has been pretty fantastic,” she said. “We get along really well. I think that our personalities and skills complement each other, so it’s been really great.”

Senior Kyle Hooker, a friend and member of the science team, said that Leyfer’s leadership skills are further displayed as a student director at the Environmental Science Program of Newton, where the two work over the summer.

“Right now, he’s directing the other counselors at the camp we’re working at, and he’s doing a good job leading us and getting us ready,” he said. “That’s something that a lot of people appreciate.”

Emily Davis-Morin, a senior at North and coworker at the Environmental Science Program of Newton, said that Leyfer inspires younger kids to engage in science.

“He’s a great leader, and he’s a good example for other newer leaders by showing them how to make science interesting to the campers,” she said. “He’s always really personable with people and offers really good constructive criticism, and he maintains a really fun environment for the campers.”

Xiao said that Leyfer models kindness and inclusion in his leadership. 

“I would say that he’s just a person who is very sociable and makes people feel comfortable,” Xiao said. “That really inspires me. He always makes sure to reach out to everybody and make sure that they feel accepted.”