In its 161-year history, an African-American student has never claimed the coveted valedictorian title at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. However, Katie Washington, a biological sciences major from Gary, Ind., has made history at the school and was recently named the 2010 University of Notre Dame valedictorian, according to the school’s Web site. She will present the valedictory address during commencement exercises in May.

Washington has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and has a minor in Catholic social teaching. She has researched lung cancer, genetics and co-authored a research paper with her professor, David Severson, whom she’s worked with over the last two years.

“She came into my lab not having any research experience and she just took off,” said Severson. “She is working all the time and taken a lead role in some genetic work we do.”

Washington also directs the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir at Notre Dame, serves as a mentor for the Sister-to-Sister program at a local high school and is the student coordinator of the “Lives in the Balance: Youth Violence and Society Seminar.”

“Katie is just an amazing person. I don’t know how she does it all,” Severson said. “She’s got priorities in her life of what she wants to do…she does everything outstanding.”

After graduation, Washington plans to attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and pursue a joint master’s and doctoral program in medicine.