Dongrun-Yau Award Winner Receives Offers from Harvard and Princeton

The Ivy League institutions announced their acceptance rates for 2016, and most of the numbers continued to fall this year. Princeton’s percentage is approximately 6.64%.Harvard made a record low rate at 5.2%, with only three offers sent out to students from mainland China, and one of these three is for 2015 Dongrun-Yau Silver Award (Mathematics) winner Zihong Chen.


While chances of getting into the Ivy League keep shrinking, Chen receives admission to the mathematics department of both Harvard and Princeton. With the heat of competition rising and the acceptance rate falling, what is his secret of winning offers from two elite schools?




  Zihong Chen


  Graduated from High School Affiliated to Fudan University, Pudong Campus


  Accepted to Harvard University and Princeton University


  Honors and Awards


  2015 Dongrun-Yau Science Award, Silver Award in Mathematics


  2014 Princeton PUMaC, team champion of Division B


  AoCMM Modeling Competition, Alpha Prize


At sixth grade, an English copy of What is Mathematics? written by American mathematicians led Zihong Chen into the magical world of science.  He began to study high school math by himself at junior high school.  Then as a high school student, he studied college math, kept checking Princeton University’s website for courses and study materials, and took open courses given by masters of mathematics.  At 2014 Princeton University Mathematics Competition, his team won the first place of Division B.  He made the decision to join Dongrun-Yau Award competition when reading Princeton’s textbook Fourier Analysis: an Introduction.  Chen said that PUMaC was similar to Mathematics Olympiad.  It was a more exciting event because of the time limit.  The Dongrun-Yau Award competition, on the other hand, is more like a research project.  There are no exam papers, no standard answers.  It gives participants sufficient time to concentrate on the study of one problem, encouraging them to think on their own and work persistently on the subject they are interested in, which helps greatly to improve their research ability.


Chen has been devoted to the study of pure mathematics. This is the most ancient, fundamental branch of mathematical science, and less popular. Doing research is like going on a lonely journey of speculative thinking.  However, he is content with the solitary road before him, and sees it as the ultimate challenge to human wisdom.  During the interview at the Dongrun-Yau Award competition, Professor Shing-Tung Yau asked Chen to explain the proof of a theorem mentioned in his research report, and was impressed with his fluent interpretation and clear thinking.  They kept contact through e-mail after the competition. Professor Yau then wrote a letter of recommendation for him to Harvard University.  Chen plans to continue the study of pure mathematics as an undergraduate student, then venture into the realm of physics or mathematical economics.


Since 2008, there have been 21 winners of Dongrun-Yau Science Award in mathematics and physics recommended and accepted to Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and other prestigious schools.  The Dongrun-Yau Science Award (formerly known as “Yau High School Science Award”) was jointly established by world renowned mathematician Shing-Tung Yau and Chairman of Taikang Life Insurance Company Dongsheng Chen.  Dongrun Foundation took up the mission to support the event in 2015.  The award was then officially renamed as “Dongrun-Yau Science Award”.  Dongrun Foundation aims to promote the spirit of public welfare and make its share of contribution to China’s effort of building a country rich in human resources.  With focus on “innovation, experience, progress”, the Foundation encourages young people to do innovative research in science, learn to be creative and think creatively, and strives to provide them with an open arena and more opportunities to pursue their dreams.