SOTY 2016: Science and Maths champ Jia Jimsyn says you must enjoy what you do before you can succeed

This year's winner hopes to share her love of these subjects with other students, and use that love to benefit society

Nicola Chan |

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Jimsyn (third from left) with SOTY finalists Lin Hin-wang (far left) and Tsang Tse-ying, and Science Museum Director Karen Sit.

One of this year's Student of the Year (SOTY) winners is doing her part to challenge the belief that boys perform better than girls in Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Before winning SOTY, Form Five Diocesan Girls' School student Jia Jimsyn had plenty of achievements under her belt, including being Hong Kong's top scorer in the University of Waterloo Euclid Math Contest earlier this year, and winning bronze in the national China Girls' Mathematical Olympiad last year.

When the chair of the school's programming team is not solving problems, she spends her time tutoring underprivileged children, or expresses her artistic side through Chinese calligraphy, ballet and piano.

Young Post talked to the 17-year-old champion to learn more about what it means to be a SOTY Scientist & Mathematician.

"I believe that in order to succeed, people must enjoy what they do," said Jimsyn, who's also the vice-chair of the school's maths team.

Her own enjoyment, she said, comes not only from her passion for maths and science, but also from "the time spent working on these subjects with friends".

But Jimsyn also has fears to overcome, especially when she tackles maths problems.

"I sometimes find it hard to persist in finding a solution to a problem I don't know," the SOTY winner admitted, saying the convenience of taking a peek at the suggested answers or asking a friend is often tempting.

Although tackling questions on her own can be challenging and at times frustrating, "part of the fun", she said, "comes from the process of working out what I don't understand."

She sometimes struggles, too, with unfamiliar terms in science books she reads outside of class. Going through the pages takes a long time and a lot of effort. "It is much easier to simply put down the book and tell myself to pick it back up later when I have learned the relevant concepts."

However, these challenges have taught her that only by persisting can she truly learn more effectively and absorb more knowledge.

But being a Student of the Year is not just about doing well in maths and science, Jimsyn told Young Post.

"You have to aim for the betterment of society as a whole, instead of just focusing on how to improve our own lives.

"This includes things such as actively promoting maths and science to others, and being aware of technological findings or other news on the topic."

She also expressed her special appreciation for Belinda Ng and Cherish Siu Cheuk-wing - the winners of SOTY Grand Prize and Community Contributor respectively - who "gave a lot to help society".

"I was particularly inspired by Belinda, who used the money she won from a music scholarship to buy recorders for a primary school, and Cherish, who started doing community service at a young age."

"Their actions motivate me to do more for society in the future."

She has three tips for readers who are considering applying for the SOTY Scientist & Mathematician category.

The first is to read extensively about science and maths, and be constantly aware of the roles they play in society - such as learning about the latest developments in the mass media.

"Second, don't be afraid to venture into unfamiliar areas," advised Jimsyn.

Jia Jimsyn has a good reason to smile!
Photo: Jia Jimsyn

"In science and mathematics, you're bound to encounter something you don't know about, whether it is a new term, a new concept, or even a whole new area," she added.

Intimidating though it may seem, she reassures readers that it will gradually get easier if you only take the first step in trying to understand it.

"Every time this happens, just read more about the topic, or ask someone else for help. You'll understand it eventually, and this will definitely help you grasp other unfamiliar topics in the future."

But if you're still thinking about giving up midway, her third tip is especially reassuring.

"Always think back to the reason why you were interested in the first place." It is, she added, one of the main motivations for pursuing the subjects of her interest.

In the future, she would like to be a doctor or a scientist.

"I also plan to help promote maths and science to others, especially to primary and secondary school students, " she said, adding that she would also consider being a professor or a teacher, on top of joining organisations to provide maths or science-related programmes for young students outside of school. We're pretty sure she'll manage to do it all.