At the age of four, most kids were watching Sesame Street and Barney, but he was watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. When others wanted to go to the swing set in the park, he wanted to go to the “Realm of the Atom” in the Hall of Science. At the age of five, while others begged for “Cat in the Hat” books, he begged for issues of Popular Science. Junior Danny Zhu was born to stand out, and today, he is a force to be reckoned with in the world of mathematics and science.
Zhu’s parents, who both majored in engineering, fostered his love for mathematics. A native New Yorker, Zhu was exposed to math at a very young age by his mother, who is a math teacher. His proficiency in math was apparent by second grade when he won several class math competitions. Zhu went on to attend Louis Pasteur Middle School 67 in Queens. He was required to attend math classes outside of his middle school at Hunter College High School because he had already surpassed the level of math taught at his school. By eighth grade, he had already completed the high school math curriculum.
Zhu’s accomplishments continued through high school, where he took multivariate calculus and differential equations, classes taken after calculus, his freshman year. He took a transformations and geometry course at New York University his sophomore year, and Linear Algebra his first term junior year.
Zhu challenges himself in other subjects as well. He is currently taking AP Physics C, AP Computer Science, AP English Language and AP Spanish Language, along with his regular requisite junior classes. For Zhu, homework and the large course workload is not stressful. “Physics and computer science are all easy and fun for me. I guess it’s because there’s a lot of math involved,” he said. AP Computer Science is his favorite class.
Zhu also juggles academics and extracurricular activities. He is on the math team, the robotics team, the school Quiz Bowl team and is the copy chief of The Stuyvesant Standard. He also is in the school chorus and plays the flute for the school band. His favorite extracurricular activity is the robotics team. “While making robots [is] an extremely fun experience, watching them compete and sometimes win [is] highly satisfying and exciting,” said Zhu.
When he was only thirteen years old, Zhu started winning national awards for his math and science talent. He participated in Mathcounts, a middle school nationwide competition, coming in first place for New York State in 2003 and making seventh place in the nationwide competition in 2004. Zhu has participated in the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) every year since 2004. Only about 500 students a year are eligible to take the USAMO and the test itself gives students nine hours to complete six essay/proof mathematical questions. Zhu is also a “Who Wants to be a Mathematician?” winner, which is a contest that allows high school students to compete for cash and prizes by answering mathematics questions. He took home $2,000 and Maplesoft math software. In addition to math competitions, Zhu has won many physics competitions. He was a U.S. Physics Olympiad semifinalist from 2005 to 2006 and a member of the 2007 U.S. Physics team. The physics team will represent America at the International Physics Olympiad, set to take place in Isafahan, Iran this July.
Although Zhu has an active academic life, he still has many hobbies to fill his down time. He enjoys reading science fiction, reading web comics, playing ultimate Frisbee and computer games, programming computers and sleeping. He has no trouble managing a busy school life, his extracurricular activities and his social life. Though Zhu has never felt overwhelmed by his courses, he feels “a bit pressured, though it doesn’t really bother me,” he said.
“Danny’s a cool guy to talk to and, although I’ve never seen him without a calculator, it’s because he genuinely loves math. He’s not obsessed with grades at all,” said junior and robotics teammate Samuel Crisanto.
Zhu’s math and physics accomplishments have not only enriched him academically, but have also helped him to meet people across the country. “I have made a lot of friends on the math team and met a lot of really cool people from all around the country. Some people think that being on the math team means having no social life, but we just have our own niche,” said Zhu. He wants his future profession to involve robotics or computer science.
For students in Stuyvesant who have trouble in either math or physics, Zhu has two simple words of advice: “Don’t panic!”