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By Devan Sipher
In 1986, Eric Moore sat just two seats away from Maria Nedwidek in an honors chemistry class at the renowned Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan. And their yearbook photos were just two rows apart. Yet he rarely spoke to her.
It wasn’t because of any antipathy.
To the contrary, he was very much attracted to his diminutive and driven classmate, but he never expressed his interest during his years in school — nor afterward for a very long time.
A shy and quiet student with a passion for spectroscopes and science fiction, he chewed up books like candy, but interacting with the opposite sex was a more challenging matter.
“Sadly, for a relatively nerdy school like Stuyvesant, I was on the nerdy end,” said Dr. Moore, now 44, referring to the flip side of the school’s reputation as a highly competitive magnet school for math and science students, with four Nobel laureates among its alumni.
Dr. Nedwidek, also 44, called the school “a sanctuary” from the harassment she had previously received from less-motivated students. “Stuyvesant was the first time in my life when my peers did not give me a hard time about who I was intellectually,” she recalled.
She flourished there, making it to the semifinals of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search in her senior year and winning admittance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But, like Dr. Moore, she was more comfortable studying chemical reactions with a Bunsen burner than with a romantic partner, and she didn’t start dating until college.
“I didn’t really think guys were paying attention to me in high school,” she said. “I wanted them to, but I didn’t think they noticed me.” But Dr. Moore definitely had, and he continued to notice whenever her name showed up in the alumni newsletter, which is how he knew that she had earned a doctorate in molecular biology from Princeton and that she had returned to Stuyvesant in 2005 as a biology teacher. But he took no action to reach out to her.
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