Michael Nissan: One of West’s Einsteins

Michael Nissan: One of West's Einsteins

By Connie Lay-Ngo

Many classify Michael Nissan as a Lit Center Centurion; a member of Math Team, Scholastic Bowl, and W.Y.S.E (World Youth in Science and Engineering); Senior class’ Most Intelligent winner; National Merit finalist; or simply as a mad math-science genius, but don’t let his periodic table belt and smarty specs deceive you. There is much more to this student than just smarts.

“Being smart is good, but we shouldn’t dwell on it because it’s not interesting,” said Nissan. “I am smart, yes, okay, great, but that shouldn’t change anything. Other characteristics are more meaningful that being smart. I do win awards and stuff, but there’s more to me than being smart.”

Friends and fellow Echo Effect members, Senior Steven Czajkowski and Junior Rishi Patel, admire Nissan’s modesty.

“Michael Nissan is one of the most intelligent people I have the fortune to know,” shared Czajkowski. “We did not become close friends until about our junior year [but] once we realized how alike in mind we actually are, a friendship was inevitable. There are many good qualities in Nissan. Perhaps his best trait is his intelligence. Along with his intelligent nature comes this thing that might sound like a bad quality but isn’t. Some misinterpret it as conceit, I see it as self-confidence. He is a very confident man. He also has a deep appreciation for the arts, whether it be music or just plain old regular art, and I think that it is a testament to his sophistic nature as well. Michael Nissan is also one of the best Americans I’ve ever met and having known him has made me a better American too. I plan to be friends with Michael for years to come.”

“When I first met him, I was intimidated by Michael, as a sophomore would when talking to the genius,” Patel began. “This was not because I was scared of not matching up to him, but it was out of intellectual respect. However, I soon found out that my hesitation to talk and carefulness when I did talk was reflected by that of Michael because he too was intimidated by me. Both of us were mindful to make a good impression on each other. I have told the Nissans before that they need to have more children. Michael and Shana are amazing people. They are intelligent, nice, and just down to earth. There are times when I go over to their house and don’t come home until 2 or 3 AM. We just get so caught up in a discussion that 5 minutes becomes an hour.”

Even when he is involved in academic activities, parts of Nissan’s personality shine. Ms. Sosa shares her favorite story of Nissan.

“We were at a Scholastic Bowl meet from Maine West, and Mr. Swider says to everyone, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to drive by Ms. Sosa’s house and meet her puppy,” Ms. Sosa began. “Michael Nissan turns around and says, ‘You have a puppy?!’ I showed him a picture and he says words I have never heard him say: ‘She is SO cute!'”

Aside from academics, Nissan is a proud member of Echo Effect.

“Echo Effect is the most honorable, talented, and humble group of men that I have had the privilege to know,” said Nissan. “I learn from them every day and will miss them greatly next year. The camaraderie that we have is something I have never felt before. It’s really something special and I’ll never connect with a group of gentlemen in the way I did this year.”

Nissan shares his inspiration for all his hard work.

“My dad [is my role model],” said Nissan. “Everyone says ‘my dad,’ but my dad is awesome. He’s always right. He’s such a character too, and he has an epic mustache. He’s so reliable, and I’ve always said he should be president. My family is very proud of me. My parents spent half their lives in Iraq, so they didn’t have much. The fact that they worked hard to have what we have now [makes them] proud of the fact hat I’ve accomplished much more than they would have dreamed of having. I owe everything I have to all the work they did. It just amazes me how different my life is from theirs, and they must be proud that I continue the hard work they did.”

In addition to his father and family, there is one teacher that Nissan admires most.

“Mr. Nortillo is one of the best people who has taught me, period,” said Nissan. “He’s taught me some of the most important things to learn, such as ways to think with a proper mindset. He also taught me how to have a mathematical mindset. Freshman year, he pulled me out of my 9th period study hall and asked me to join the Math Team. At the first Math Team meet, I got a perfect score and he called my house to tell my parents I did well. What a great guy! He inspired me to pursue Math Team for 4 years. That was the moment I discovered I’m not bad at this math stuff.”

Even with all his academic recognition, Nissan sometimes gets anxious in competitions.

“The people who read this article should write suggestions for pre-competition rituals,” said Nissan. “Very rarely do I get nervous in [math competitions]. I tend not to be nervous. I could get anxious. Once [the competitions] start, it’s gone.”

Nissan wants to clarify that, contrary to his reputation, his interests do not revolve around math and science.

“Let’s get this straight. I love English and Art as well [as math and science]. I studied art to an extent over the summer. It’s different from math and science and [it’s] inspiring. I’m not always like: ‘Yes! Math and science! I don’t read books!’ Hamlet is my second favorite book. You can’t read it enough times. All you need is one piece of good literature and it would last you a year on a desert island.”

Nissan also would like people to know that he is not someone to be intimidated by.

“I am not extraordinary,” said Nissan. “I behave the same way most other people my age behave. I don’t like doing homework as much as the next guy. It’s not like I spend my free time doing math problems. Math problems suck. There was one geometry problem I could not do and, luckily, the freshman I was helping figured out what to do.  Math is one of those tools that reveals the secrets of the universe. That’s why it has a special place in my heart.”

Nissan is going to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study biochemical engineering next year.

“[I am going to miss] the friendships I’ve made here. The school has provided me with great relationships, the teachers are awesome, the peers, everyone is so great. I love coming here every day. I learn so much. Coming into high school, I was so much stupider that I am now. Everything I know is because of the school. It’s a special thing how much I’ve improved as a person in the 4 years here.”


Mad about Michael? Here are some Fun Facts: 

  • His favorite food is anything edible, his favorite movie is Citizen Kane, his favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory, his favorite band is U2, he enjoys listening to folk music, his favorite thing to do is go golfing, cycling, and sharing his “odd humor” with others, and his favorite book is Moby Dick.
  • His pet peeve is when people “literally use the word literally in every sentence.”
  • Over spring break, he met Adam Sandler and his family.
  • He has played the piano since 6th grade.
  • The scariest moment of his life was when he was in an Oberweis and a car came crashing through the window.
  • His greatest accomplishment this year was finally learning to whistle.