Student Spotlight: William Ray Duan


Student wins 1st place out of over 10,000 entries in DuPont Science Essay Competition

Shayna Kapadia | Staff Writer

1st place winner of the DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition, junior William Duan’s essay, “Defeating Desertification:  Magical Cyanobacteria,” was chosen out of over 10,000 entries. As a prize for winning, Duan is heading to Florida on an all-expenses paid trip to The Walt Disney World Resort. In addition, he received a $5,000 U.S. savings bond and a tour of the NASA-Kennedy Space Center. Mrs. Marsella-Jensen accompanied him and his father to the awards ceremony in Florida this week.

1.      What is the DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition and how did you hear about it?

“The DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition, which is sponsored by DuPont in collaboration with The Walt Disney World Resort, NASA, and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), is one of the foremost student science and technology competitions in North America. The program’s objective is to increase scientific literacy among students and to motivate students to excel in communicating scientific ideas. The competition has been held annually since 1986. I heard about the program through my teachers and also from friends.”

2.      Why did you decide to enter?

“The dual emphasize of the competition on science and on writing interested me the most. This design fit with the capability and schedule of a high school student very well. I am interested in both subject areas through the science/math classes and English classes at Irvington.”

3.      What was your essay about and why did you choose that topic?

“My essay was about the urgent issue of land degradation/desertification and the role cyanobacteria could play in the fight against desertification. Desertification is a topic of interest to me as it is an urgent problem for many countries; utilizing the characteristics of the oldest life form on earth, the cyanobacteria, to fight desertification is fascinating to me.”

4.      How did you feel when you found out you won?

“I was called into the principal’s office. On the way there, I kept going wondering if I did anything wrong; I couldn’t find the answer. Then when I was told the news, I was stunned. There are over 10,000 entries, and I was lucky to be the national winner.”

5.      Did anybody motivate you to write? Who?

“Yes. I feel motivated by the science/math classes, English classes and other classes and teachers. Through my years at Irvington, I gained a lot of knowledge that is important for me be ready for college; in addition, I also gained the skills in how to keep myself motivated and keep a strong self-discipline. These skills will help me a lot in my future career.”

6.      Whose support did you have, in particular?

“My English teacher, Mrs. MJ, was the sponsoring teacher for the essay. I also owe a big ‘Thank you’ to all my teachers, my counselors, and the school staff. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their encouragement and help to me at Irvington. So many of my fellow students have been very helpful, I want to say thank you here, to all of them.”