11 Year-Old Boy Wonder Wins State Science Fair
Andrew Hsu, age 11,
became the youngest winner ever of the grand prize in the 46th
annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair. He will
represent Washington State at The Intel International Science
and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), the world’s largest pre-college
celebration of science, and widely considered to be the most prestigious
science fair at the high school level.
Hsu received special
prizes, medallions, a trophy, and a scholarship, for his project,
Identification, Characterization, and DNA Sequencing of the
Homo Sapiens and Mus Musculus COL20A1 Gene (Type XX Collagen)
with Bioinformatics and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Andrew’s
project has been awarded the President’s Award – Biology Excellence
Award, United States Army Award, The Office of Naval Research
Naval Science Award, Art Anderson Associates Special Merit Award
in Engineering, Senior Division Award: Medicine and Health – First
Place, and the Grand Prize Silver Award.
was about a gene that I identified in the human and mouse genome
called COL20A1, which encodes for the type XX collagen protein,”
says Hsu. “To identify it, I used bioinformatics and PCR. Bioinformatics
is the process of searching computer databases and programs, and
PCR is a laboratory procedure used to amplify targeted DNA sequences.
In the future, I hope to discover diseases related to mutations
in the type XX collagen, and possibly find a cure for them.”
At 2, Hsu already demonstrated
his amazing attention span and problem-solving skills by assembling
LEGO blocks into a robot as tall as he was. At seven, he was already
a fan of Brian Jacques, a popular fantasy fiction writer from
England. “Redwall, Mossflower, The Long Patrol,
Martin the Warrior…,” Andrew joyfully recites the titles
of his series of novels, each over 350 pages long and totaling
a whopping 5,000 pages of writing. “I read them all,” Andrew says.
“It was a fascinating world.”
Hsu is homeschooled because
he was skipping grades quickly. “We knew we had to do something
about it to fill his need to learn,” says David, Andrew’s father.
Indeed, Andrew’s real life
sometimes reads like a fantasy. At 9, Hsu started taking courses
with the University of Nebraska Independent Study High School.
He took just about all the math courses, science, and French.
To explain why he took French, Hsu said, “I wanted to learn French
because I admired Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)
and what they are doing.” The organization delivers emergency
aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made
disasters, and to others who lack health care due to social or
At 11, he recently scored in
the 99% on his ACT exams and that put him in the top 0.1% of over
1.2 million ACT test takers. He is ready to start college fulltime
next year. He is now working in a University of Washington lab
for his genome research. Hsu spoke about his mentor with affection,
“Working with Professor Byers is a great learning experience I
will always treasure.” He has also had access to Dr. Byers’ laboratory
to do experiments and research. “I am also greatly indebted to
Dr. Pace for his complete support in lab work. He allowed me to
bother him almost any time with questions. He is very precise
in the lab procedures and that taught me a lot.”
Hsu also excels in the sport
of swimming. He holds team records at various age levels and now
holds three in his current age group. “Swimming occupies a unique
place in my heart,” he says. “It acts as a balancing weight for
my study and research work, and I wouldn’t feel complete without
it. And my swimming friends are fun.” Hsu also compares swimming
to his research work. “Continuing to practice one move in swimming
is no different than redoing my lab procedures,” he says. “In
fact, the frustration of not getting the result I want is exactly
the same. Knowing what you are looking for is there and knowing
you’ll eventually find it are also the same.”
His academic career is not
everything for Hsu. He says the mission of his life is to help
others. He has recently founded a non-profit organization with
his brother Patrick — the World Children Organization. (www.world-children.org)
“Through video documentaries
and religious affiliations, we have witnessed the gross violations
of children’s rights in some parts of the world,” says Hsu. “Children
are deprived of the opportunity for education because they need
to be working to bring income for the family. In some cases, children
are sold as prostitutes or used as child labor or as illegal drug
traffickers.” The foundation is currently fundraising to be able
to create school and health kits that will be shipped out to organizations
providing aid internationally.
Hsu has many goals in his life,
and is bound to achieve most of them. He has said he wants to
get two Ph.D.’s, one in medicine, and another one in computer
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