Hong Kong teenager and would-be Olympic speed skater wins prestigious science award

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 May, 2015, 10:57am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 May, 2015, 11:08am

A Hong Kong teenager who balances a love for science with a dream to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics as a speed skater has been named Youth Scientist of the Year for his computer model to test for gene mutations.

Sidney Chu, 15, won in three categories in the Hong Kong Youth Science Technology Innovation Competition for a model designed to detect gene mutations from cancer datasets. 

“It felt like a truly rewarding experience for the two years of work that I had put in,” Chu said.

Chu started the extra-curricular project two years ago with fellow Hong Kong International School pupil Samuel Xu.

After Xu moved to Shanghai, Chu continued to develop the model after an initial disappointment in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

“Right after middle school I thought I really wanted to launch myself early into [a science] career and give myself a head start. So I decided a pre-collegiate research competition would be fun and help me on that goal.”

The two students worked with professor Nelson Tang Leung-sang of the department of chemical pathology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where they developed one of the professor’s research areas.

“In Hong Kong, a lot of the universities here are conservative and wouldn’t accept many high school students as fellows, but lucky enough the professor at CUHK was kind enough to guide us through this process,” Chu said.

Chu said it is more common in the United States for high school students to take on science research projects ahead of university entry.

“A lot of our students may have the interest but what sets Sidney apart really is the dedication and self motivation and really striking out on his own,” said Ann Ferrara, Chu’s guidance counsellor at the Hong Kong International School.

Chu said he will work to develop the model before competing in the Chinese Adolescent Technology and Innovation Science Contest in August, and will enter the project into the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh in May 2016.

The teenager also has his eye on competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and trains for up to 10 hours a day when on training camps abroad and visits the mainland each weekend to practice as there are no suitable rinks in Hong Kong.

He will compete in the Chinese National Winter games in 2016.