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Andover Students Participate in S.-T. Yau High School Science Awards

D. ZHU/The Phillipian

Sebastian Zhu ’20, Vincent Fan ’20, and Will Yue ’22 (pictured left to right) submitted a computer science project to the S.-T. Yau Science Awards.

Six Andover students submitted research projects to the Shing-Tung Yau High School Science Awards, a global competition sponsored by Harvard University mathematics professor Shing-Tung Yau. Sarah Chen ’21 and Sinclair Shen ’22 each created projects on computational biology; Victoria Zhang ’20 submitted a project on physics; and Vincent Fan ’20, Sebastian Zhu ’20, and Will Yue ’22 worked together on a computer science project.

Yau created the award in 2008 to recognize high school students’ achievements in mathematics. The award has since expanded to include physics, biology, chemistry, economic modelling, and computer science. Over 5,800 teams from around the world compete for the awards each year, according to the S.-T. Yau High School Science Award’s website.

Chen will advance to the final round in Beijing this December for her project in biology. At the regional awards ceremony on November 3 at Harvard University, Chen enjoyed learning from a variety of renowned professors.

“It was such a unique experience to have our projects judged by such eminent professors. A few of them spoke briefly at our award ceremony this past Sunday, and hearing a little bit about their philosophies surrounding research was so inspiring,” said Chen.

Shen discovered the award from a friend in Shanghai in May of this year. The pair researched use of the “deploy system” for endoscopic imaging of the alimentary tract.

“[My partner’s] dad was a professor [at a] Chinese university, so we had access to the library and we were able to find a tutor in China. He said that Google uses a state of the art system instead of our system called the deploy system,” said Shen.

Although he and his partner did not advance beyond the regional competition, Shen is hoping to compete again next year.

“It’s kind of rewarding and satisfying, but you didn’t win so you get sad but it’s okay…[I would] probably [do it again] next year because this award would mean a lot on your application,” said Shen.

Fan, Yue, and Zhu have been collaborating on independent projects since middle school. For their submission, the group researched and analyzed the complexity of a computer solving two-dimensional and three-dimensional problems.

Zhu said, “We found the time it takes a computer to solve both these problems is different, and it’s actually much, much harder for a computer to solve a 3-D problem, and that was our main result of what we did- The fact that there wasn’t really a good algorithm for computers.”

According to Zhu, the project began as a casual activity for the group. When Fan, Yue, and Zhu realized they could take it further, they emailed professors at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Through a collection of emails, the group was able to find a topic.

“[Yue] started looking for things that we could try to submit it to. We found [the S.-T. Yau Science Awards] and it’s been going for 12 years, I think. We just decided we [would] take a shot at it,” said Zhu.

Zhu also found the competition to be a gratifying experience despite not advancing to the next round. In particular, Zhu relished the opportunity to gain insight from faculty at several top universities.

“I don’t regret doing it at all. It’s something that if you win that’s great, but even if you don’t win it’s a good experience. It’s a good experience to just be able to meet with these very esteemed faculty all over the world. Some are from China and a lot of them are here in the U.S., but both ends of the U.S. like [University of California, Los Angeles] and some are at Harvard and some are in [the University of Texas at] Austin. It was a good way to meet a lot of the people in the field that I was studying,” said Zhu.

Editor’s Note: Sarah Chen is a Digital Editor for The Phillipian. Victoria Zhang declined an interview with The Phillipian.