The school science fair. For many, the phrase harkens back to simple experiments made from homemade goods or the quintessential model volcanoes.
That’s not the case for 17-year-old Justin Yuen, a senior at Carlisle High School.
His team’s first-place project consisted of testing the effects of silver nano-particles on E. coli k12 growth. Yuen has a love for science.
“I’m interested in how stuff works,” Yuen said. “When I was a kid, I always wanted to know how cars worked, so I guess it’s really the mechanics behind it.”
Yuen, the son of Brian and Judy Yuen, plans to attend college next year to study biology with a focus on pre-dentistry.
He has been accepted to a few schools, including to the University of Pittsburgh, which Yuen said has a really good dentistry program, but he is waiting to officially make a decision until he hears back from a few other schools.
The bright and bubbly senior holds a 4.165 GPA and is ranked in the top 10 percent of his graduating class, all while carrying a course load that includes multiple honors classes—all while competing in athletics, volunteering in the community and holding down a summer job.
“I first met Justin in German 1 at the middle school,” Katherine Schock, who now teaches German at the high school, wrote in a letter of recommendation for Yuen. “... I have seen Justin grow to be more self-assured and confident in the classroom. ... He has a warm, open personality that draws people to him, making them comfortable to work with him in small groups or as a partner.”
Yuen not only excels at his classwork, but he also began playing tennis his freshman year of high school and gained accolades on the court.
“When I got into it, it was a lot of fun and I met a lot of really great friends there,” he said. “... It was a really great experience.”
In his first year, Yuen placed at districts in a U.S. Tennis Association Team Tennis competition and made the varsity squad at Carlisle High School by his sophomore year.
That same year Yuen was named MVP of the high school boys’ team.
Yuen also volunteers, offering his time to groups like Project SHARE and aiding with the LeTort Elementary School Mayfair and book drives through the National English Honors Society.
Most recently Yuen has offered his time to help tutor middle school students.
“I feel like it’s a great experience, but it actually feels good, as well,” Yuen said. “I feel like I’ve made a difference in the community and have made a positive impact in people’s lives.”
This past summer, Yuen also held down a job as a sandwich artist at Subway.
So, how does Yuen maintain his grades, including earning the Academic Excellence Award from 2013 to 2016, while juggling all of his extracurricular activities?
“School is (the) first priority,” Yuen said. “I try to do all my school work before tennis and stuff. I just work hard during study halls and stuff to try to get my work done. ... I just try to set school as a priority before everything else.”