MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Stefan Wan, 17
Saving the planet might be on the career path for Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts valedictorian Stefan Wan. The Wellington teen is doing research in conjunction with the University of Florida to help discover what is happening with the overgrowth of algae in bodies of water in Florida.
Wan created a method to remove phosphorus from water and then recycle it as fertilizer. He then designed the objective to remove the phosphorus and reached out to a professor to do research at the University of Florida about two years ago.
Wan said nutrients like phosphorus cause algae to grow and the overgrowth of this algae may negatively impact the ecosystem. “The continued algae growth may damage the ecosystem,” he said. “(But) by treating the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee, those two areas, that would resolve the algae problems most in Florida.”
Wan said working on the project with UF has been one of his biggest accomplishments and the research has brought him added attention and accolades. “I’ve done scientific research at the lab at UF and I submitted those projects to multiple science competitions,” he said. “I won second place at the International Science Engineering Fair.”
Wan also was chosen as one of only 40 students nationwide to be a Regeneron Talent finalist. In March, Wan went to Washington, D.C. to compete for top prizes. He placed 10th.
The International Science Engineering Fair is sponsored by Intel and the Regeneron Science Talent Search is sponsored by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and both were organized by the Society for Science in the Public.
Time management has been one of Wan’s biggest challenges. He said that it’s difficult to find the time to study to maintain good grades and have time for extracurricular activities.
Wan’s GPA is 4.0 and his HPA is 5.32. He is president of the Math Honor Society and the Science Honor Society and is the head science tutoring coordinator in the National Honor Society. And, he has taken 15 AP classes so far, not including this year.
Wan said he aspires to be a chemistry professor but is also keeping his options open. He said that he would ideally like to study at Stanford, Harvard or Yale but nothing has been confirmed.
Wan is also a classically trained pianist who has studied piano for the past 12 years, including the past four at Dreyfoos. “I’ve been very interested in the Romantic era of classical music,” he said. “So composers like Chopin are my favorite types of pieces.”
Wan described himself as “curious” and says he thinks of himself as a chemist who loves to play piano. “I’m a very curious, open-minded individual that really likes to learn anything,” he said.
What are your hobbies?
I like to read books both fiction and nonfiction and I like to watch Netflix.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I would probably see what the principal (of my school) actually does.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
Leonardo Divinci because he is the ideal “renaissance man.” He was a fantastic artist. He was also a brilliant innovator, scientist and engineer. He was also a very curious guy.
What is the best advice you ever received?
My mom (Jian Chang Cai) and dad (Yong Shan Wan) said be open to trying new things and try to do as many things as possible because you never know what you might fall in love with.
What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?
The unveiling of the “David” statue by Michelangelo.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite time in my childhood is when I spent time with my brother. When he became grown up, he was very busy and I didn’t have as much time to spend with him. So that’s the time that I cherish.
Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?
My brother, he is someone I’ve always looked up to. He basically laid out a path for me after he graduated. He got me through many aspects of my life.
(Christopher Wan was valedictorian of his class when he graduated from Dreyfoos four years ago.)
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I still have to use my hands to tell my left from my right.
What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
A really long book, a computer and my glasses.