SOTY 2015: Last year's top three reveals it takes more than super-brains to snag a prize

By Wong Tsui-kai

Last year's Student of the Year - Scientist & Mathematician winner and finalists talks about what it takes to win the prestigious award

By Wong Tsui-kai |

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(From left) HK Science Museum director and judge, Karen Sit Man; second runner-up Jason Lo; first runner-up Andrea Au; and Scientist & Mathematician Award winner, Seraph Wu.

The Student of the Year - Scientist & Mathematician is awarded to students who have made significant achievements in the two fields. But that's just the entry criteria. Young Post asked last year's winner and finalists for their opinions on what it takes to claim the prestigious prize.

Last year's winner, Seraph Wu Shi-kei, was a student at St Paul's Convent School (Secondary Section) when she won the award; she is now studying medicine at the University of Hong Kong.

Described as a "scholastic warrior" by the judges, her advice to contestants is at odds with the tough image that comment may convey. She says contestants should be themselves, adding: "Don't be so aggressive that you seize every opportunity to speak. Instead, listen to others and respond accordingly."

Beyond academics, she credits her service to the community as a key area that caught the judges' eyes. "I think the judges are looking for a humble person who doesn't boast about himself but feels grateful for what he has and is determined to give back to society. I think they could feel my positive energy and passion for serving the community."

Her advice for students in the interviews is straightforward: "Structure your answer. Be sure that you have a topic sentence. Always consider both sides of an issue and show your reasoning skills."

Andrea Au Chor-kiu, finalist and former student of Diocesan Girls' School, is also studying medicine at HKU. She says: "I am glad that I'm closer to realising my dream of contributing to the community as a doctor."

Andrea was very impressed by the standard of competition at last year's Student of the Year awards.

Comparing her own achievements to others taught her to stay humble, she says. "I was blown away by the astonishing achievements of the other competitors, with many of them winning accolades at an international level. Humility is an important attribute that allows us to learn from others and improve on our weaknesses in order to reach greater heights."

She also suggests students take part in community service. "There is a tendency to focus only on academic results in Hong Kong's exam-oriented education system. However, participating in community service and pursuing personal interests during this period are equally important because they have a positive impact on our personal growth."

Explaining how a balanced life can help you stand out in interviews, she adds: "Through such participation and pursuits during the school years, a student will develop a sense of balance in the areas of academic, community service and personal interests to become an all-rounder.

"During the interview, an all-round candidate will be able to show such balance by easily making connections between different issues and across topics, as well as present views in a broader context and from different perspectives."

Jason Lo Chun-kit, another finalist from last year, is also at HKU, studying biomedical science after graduating from The Chinese Foundation Secondary School.

"Science has given me a lot, so I want to give back to the discipline," Jason says.

The judges were impressed by his passion to give back to the science community and develop an awareness and interest in the subject among his peers.

"I led my school's science club and held different activities to promote science. I took part in science projects under the supervision of a teacher, and eventually won awards in overseas science competitions," says Jason.

His final piece of advice to prospective students is to stay grounded. "Stay true to yourself. Whatever prizes you have won are important to an extent, because they count towards your score, but that's just one part of it. Show that you are passionate about your discipline."