Sophomore Yuyuan Luo dedicates her time to science and political debate


As sophomore Yuyuan Luo has grown to the point where she is today, her dedication to math and science has continued to flourish deeper.

Even at a young age, Yuyuan’s interest in science has always been prevalent, but it made itself more apparent when she joined Science Olympiad in eighth grade. She was drawn to the opportunity to gain more exposure to sciences not offered in the school curriculum and was prompted to join because of the other people in the club as well as her parents.

“I think what really got me interested [in Science Olympiad] was going deeper than a normal science class to explore specific fields of science,” Yuyuan said.

She has mainly expressed interest in source code, a series of computer instructions possibly with comments, written in a programming language that can be interpreted by people usually as a plain text.

“[I like] just being able to get answers fast without having to go through the work to calculate something out yourself or being able to build things,” Yuyuan said. “Just the sense of being in control is really exhilarating.”

Last year, at the Science Olympiad competition, source code participants took a Python test that was a trial event and underwent multiple choice questions that were unrelated Python coding challenges. This year, however, it’s only the coding test, and everything is tied together with a general theme.

“[Coding] is basically telling the computers what to do, and they give you the answers,” Yuyuan said.

Her nascent passion for astronomy led her to begin studying it this year in the science club as well. Yuyuan’s desire to learn more about the topic stems from her father’s career as an astronomer.

“I had spent a lot of time in [my dad’s] office when I was younger,” Yuyuan said. “The conversations he had with his colleagues and students were really intriguing, and I wanted to know more about what he was talking about.”

She had been interested in coding even before Science Olympiad. Yuyuan claimed that she has been interested in the field since she was young and that she had tried to teach herself a few things about it. Yuyuan’s father signed her up for an online Python class in the summer following eighth grade after she was unable to self-teach the topic.

“I really like coding, especially some of the algorithmic part of it, and there’s a lot of overlap with math,” Yuyuan said. “I think I might go into it as a research-oriented kind of thing, but we’ll see.”

As 1 of 75 international finalists for Google Code-in, Yuyuan has shown that she holds extreme talent in the field of coding. Google provided an introduction for high schoolers to open source projects, which are projects where the source code is widely available and anyone can contribute. It provides some of the easier tasks to students.

Although Yuyuan was surprised that she was a finalist, she felt she was fortunate to be one.

“I guess I just put a lot of work into the tasks and being active in the community,” Yuyuan said. “I don’t even know how I got to become a finalist; I feel like there are a lot of people that did more than me.”

Alongside Science Olympiad, Yuyuan is also a participant in Model United Nations (Model UN) which is a simulation of the actual United Nations. Yuyuan has been to four conferences so far and has always been on the SPECPOL committee, yet she has represented four different countries.

At the last conference, at the University of Michigan, Yuyuan represented Pakistan for the topics of the privatization of space and Kurdistan on preserving the rights of the Kurdish people. Yuyuan had been able to author a working paper, but it had ultimately been rejected before it got to the floor.

Contrarily, she doesn’t like the conferences as much because the level of debate isn’t high enough. Yuyuan believes that because there aren’t copies of the working papers on the wall at the conferences that are publicly accessible, it is difficult for participants to debate over specifics.

“At first I wanted to better my public speaking skills,” Yuyuan said, “but I also am really interested in international relations.”

Although Yuyuan isn’t entirely certain what she wants to do in the future, she said that she plans to keep her options open until she decides. Yuyuan discussed that she can see herself as someone involved in a political field of work or a science field, specifically coding.

“At this stage, I’m only a sophomore, so I don’t know [what my career will be] yet,” Yuyuan said, “but it’s something I really enjoy.”