19 Incredibly Impressive Students At Harvard

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sam clark harvardGussie RocSam Clark, cast vice president of Hasty Pudding, created a viral video of Harvard students giving fake tours of Yale.

This year, Harvard University admitted just 5.9% of applicants, a testament to the school's centuries-long tradition of excellence.

Narrowing down the 6,700-person student body to just a handful of go-getters was a challenge John Harvard himself wouldn't have struggled with any less. We spoke with campus leaders, sought the counsel of student journalists, and combed the internet to find the 19 Harvard College undergrads who will knock your socks off.

The semester may have just started, but these kids are already hard at work, making breakthroughs in cancer research, launching innovative startups, and creating a better community at Harvard.

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David Boone overcame homelessness to achieve his dream of working in tech.

David Boone overcame homelessness to achieve his dream of working in tech.

Class of 2016

David Boone grew up in a violent Cleveland neighborhood, and lost his home when a gang burned it down for Boone's refusing to join them. Boone still managed to make excellent grades and, now a junior, received a coveted spot in Microsoft's Co-Op program.

This past summer Boone worked as a Software Development Engineer In Test intern in Microsoft's Seattle office, a step up from the previous summer when he worked as a Software Developer intern. In the Co-Op program, which starts in the spring, Boone will work out of the New England Research and Development Center, one of just a few undergraduate interns among mainly Ph.D. and graduate students.

On campus, Boone is the founder of the Harvard Undergraduate Robotics club. HURC solves real-world problems by designing robots "that defy traditional applications to solve everyday problems," says Boone. He and members of HURC collaborate together and compete in robotics competitions.

Boone is also a passionate photographer who loves experimenting with his DSLR. His life goal, he says, is to change the world, and plans to get there by starting his own company next summer.

Shree Bose runs a startup that teaches kids about computers by having them build some.

Shree Bose runs a startup that teaches kids about computers by having them build some.

Class of 2016

Shree Bose co-founded Piper, a start-up currently based in San Francisco which gives kids hands-on lessons in computers and coding by having them build their own computers.

The company, now about nine months old, was just accepted into an accelerator program in Silicon Valley. Most of Bose's team is moving out there to work on Piper full-time while Bose continues her degree and plans a Kickstarter campaign to raise more funds.

The molecular and cellular biology major made headlines back in high school through her study of the protein AMP kinase and its reaction with the cancer chemotherapy drug Cisplatin. She noticed that when she inhibited AMP kinase, Cisplatin began destroying cancer cells, leading to a breakthrough, first prize at the Google Science Fair, and praise from President Obama.

At Harvard, Bose serves as a student EMT on campus. She says she doesn't have a firm five-year plan laid out, but hopes to do something related to medicine and science when she graduates.

Eric Chen discovered a new type of drug to treat the flu.

Eric Chen discovered a new type of drug to treat the flu.

Class of 2018

Chen's Intel Science Talent Search-winning project involved finding compounds capable of blocking endonuclease, an enzyme that the influenza virus needs to spread. His research could lead to new, more effective drugs to treat the highly contagious illness. His Intel prize includes copious bragging rights, a serious résumé builder, and $100,000.

But the modest Chen told his hometown newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, that he didn't expect to win Intel, despite the fact that he won the grand prize at the 2013 Google Science Fair and the top individual honor at the 2013 Siemens competition.

Chen's interest in new treatments for the flu was sparked by the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" outbreak, which first appeared in the U.S. in the San Diego area.

When he's not curing the flu, Chen plays piano and tutors Mandarin-speaking elders in computer skills. He just began his first semester at Harvard and is considering a career in academia or social entrepreneurship.

Sitan Chen is an academically-driven software developer.

Sitan Chen is an academically-driven software developer.

Class of 2016

In high school Chen won third place in the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for his research in computer science, sparking a lifelong interest in learning. Chen interned the summer of his freshman year at non-profit educational organization Khan Academy. As a software developer, he designed new, future components of the site's dashboard. He also worked on the site's diagnostic test engine, fixed components of the data pipeline, and carried out data experiments. The internship gave Chen the opportunity to bridge education and the tech world.

Chen is also a talented and accomplished pianist and vocalist, having performed at Carnegie Hall, New York's Steinway Hall, and Boston's Symphony Hall. He also had the opportunity to study privately with pianist David Deveau at MIT, and take a masterclass with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

When he graduates in 2016, Chen hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics or theoretical computer science, and ultimately begin a career in academia.

Sam Clark is a comedian who starred in an epic viral video.

Sam Clark is a comedian who starred in an epic viral video.

Class of 2015

Last fall in anticipation of the annual Harvard-Yale football game, award-winning comedy group On Harvard Time produced its annual "Beat Yale" video, also known as the "F*ck Yale" video. Clark and other members of the group traveled to New Haven, Connecticut to give fake tours of Yale's campus to unsuspecting visitors. In the video, which has received more than one million views, Clark makes fun of everything from Yale's obsession with Gothic architecture to its reputation as "Harvard's little, perhaps less successful, sister."

The social studies major arrived at Cambridge initially thinking he wanted to go on to be a senator or lawyer. But when he joined Hasty Pudding, a historic theatrical society known for its burlesque crossdressing musicals and annual selection of famous entertainers as Woman and Man of the Year, he was hooked.

In his four years as Harvard's resident ham, Clark has performed in and conducted behind the scenes magic on 40 shows a year, served as senior correspondent for On Harvard Time, and won a joke campaign for Undergraduate Council President (a position he immediately resigned from).

Clark plans to move to New York City or San Francisco after graduation to pursue comedy, "much to the consternation of my Jewish mother who's always questioning if I go to class."

Gabriel Guimaraes is a computer science wiz who translates online course materials into Portuguese.

Gabriel Guimaraes is a computer science wiz who translates online course materials into Portuguese.

Class of 2017

As a Brazilian high school student abroad in Germany, Gabriel Guimaraes stumbled upon CS50, an introduction to computer science class offered at Harvard and available online to anyone in the world. The course uses lectures and problem sets to teach you to think more methodically and solve problems more effectively.

Guimaraes, who is fluent in English, became addicted and finished the modules in under three weeks. Guimaraes wanted this tool to be available to the Portuguese-speaking world, so he got in touch with the Harvard professor in charge and began translating it.

CC50, as he calls his rendition, is a website where Brazilian learners can upload their problem sets, see their grades, and get help on assignments, "similar in spirit to what is done here at Harvard," Guimaraes says. The ambitious high schooler went on to give the lecture three times, for free, to more than 160 students and uploaded the taped lectures to the site.

His first semester at Harvard, Guimareaes became head teaching fellow of CS50, which enrolls 700 students annually with more than 300,000 registered internationally. He plans to graduate Harvard in four years with both a bachelor's and masters in computer science.

Adrienne Jarocki is a NCAA top-ranked fencer.

Adrienne Jarocki is a NCAA top-ranked fencer.

Class of 2017

Adrienne Jarocki claimed gold at the NCAA Championships this year, going 18-5 with 108 recorded touches and a plus-53 scoring index in the tournament. Basically, she's a force to be reckoned with on the fencing strip.

Jarocki, a former competitive dancer and beauty pageant contestant, first picked up a sabre at age 14, much later than her peers. The transition between techniques was rather seamless, and she climbed to second place at the 2013 Junior World Championships.

This year, the Harvard freshman faced off in the NCAA women's sabre individual final against her teammate and friend, Aliya Itzkowitz. Jarocki scored six of seven touches in the second period and cinched the title — the first in the Harvard fencing program's history.

While Jarocki arrived in Cambridge with sights set on the Olympics, her studies in human evolutionary biology have led her to a major career change. She plans to earn an MD after graduation.

Brianna Laing led the women's hockey team to victory in four shutouts last season.

Brianna Laing led the women's hockey team to victory in four shutouts last season.

Class of 2017

Brianna Laing, a Marblehead, Massachusetts native who grew up playing soccer with her defenseman dad and forward sisters, played 477 minutes last season and compiled an unblemished 7-0-0 record. With a .974 save percentage and 189 saves overall, she led the Crimson to victory in four season shutouts.

Earlier this year, the ECAC conference named her Rookie of the Week when she toppled Yale in a best-out-of-three Quarterfinals brawl. Laing played all 97 minutes of the second game, allowing just two goals to their chief rival, and stopped all 30 shots that came her way in the third game.

Before arriving in Cambridge, Laing led prep school Noble and Greenough to four New England championships and manned the posts as a member of the USA under 18 team, which won silver at the 2012 IIHF Women's World Hockey Championships.

Laing, who studies integrative biology, hopes to land a spot on the USA Hockey team for the 2018 Olympics. Her nominator describes her as a "shoe-in."

Bernadette Lim started a non-profit to foster positive self-image in high school girls.

Bernadette Lim started a non-profit to foster positive self-image in high school girls.

Class of 2016

Bernadette Lim's non-profit, Women SPEAK, empowers high school-aged girls to be confident, healthy leaders and to challenge stereotypes about women. Women SPEAK attracted the attention of Chelsea Clinton and Jessica Alba when the organization held its first Girls Leadership Summit in Los Angeles this summer.

Lim is also the lead author and editor of the inaugural 2014-2015 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in Boston, the first of its kind in the city. She led a team of 20 researchers to write the 60-page report, which analyzes the most recent demographics and data in a number of areas on Boston's women and girls.

Last year Lim received a full scholarship to study abroad in Kenya where, as the principal investigator of Project SHE, she spearheaded an intervention research project that will provide menstrual hygiene products to more than 6,000 schools to prevent Kenyan girls from missing school during their periods.

Lim's work and writing has been featured in USA Today College, HuffPost, and Seventeen magazine.

Lim plans to obtain a joint MD-MPH degree in order to become an OB/GYN and public health advocate, with the ultimate goal of becoming Surgeon General and putting women's health issues on the map.

Dawn Loggins overcame poverty and homelessness and is now helping others like her.

Dawn Loggins overcame poverty and homelessness and is now helping others like her.

Class of 2016

Loggins was abandoned by her parents when she was in high school and found herself homeless and helpless. The people in her community rallied around her, offering her food, shelter, and support.

During this time, she channeled her energy into her schoolwork and activities: she participated in her high school's band club, photography club, cross-country team, and National Honor Society. She also scrubbed floors as a janitor at Burns to earn extra money — all while making straight A's. At Harvard she's involved in many fundraising events that benefit the homeless community in Cambridge.

Now a junior, Loggins gives motivational speeches on her experience. She is studying linguistics and has started her own non-profit to help other students in disadvantaged situations find success. Her organization has so far raised over $35,000 to give others the opportunities to which they might not otherwise have access.

Geoffrey Martello worked as a neurosurgeon's research intern after being treated for a brain tumor.

Geoffrey Martello worked as a neurosurgeon's research intern after being treated for a brain tumor.

Class of 2017

In spring 2008, Geoffrey Martello was treated for a brain tumor at Boston Children's Hospital. Years later, and cancer-free, he found himself walking the same halls as a research intern.

Working under the neurosurgeon who performed his operation, Martello conducted research on the use of intraoperative MRI imaging and its implications for the future of neurosurgery at Boston Children's Hospital. His studies on predictors of outcome in pediatric thalamic tumor cases was published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

"As a patient, I have attended many brain tumor clinics at Dana Farber Cancer Institute," Martello says. "But during those two summers in high school, I experienced the physician's perspective, and it was eye-opening."

During his first semester at Harvard, he conceptualized a method for individualizing multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis treatment. In plain English, he identifies which drugs this particular strain of TB resists.

Martello plans to pursue a degree in neurobiology and economics and a joint MD-MBA, so he can split his career between clinical practice and the business side of the healthcare industry.

Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence opened up a national dialogue about racial equality.

Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence opened up a national dialogue about racial equality.

Class of 2016

Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence created "I, Too, Am Harvard" — a play and, later, an internet campaign that highlights minority students talking about their experiences being stereotyped or alienated on campus. The campaign has now been adopted by more than 30 universities around the world, including Oxford, UC – Berkeley, McGill, and Cambridge.

The movement grew from an independent study project about race inspired by the Being Black at University of Michigan campaign. Matsuda-Lawrence's campaign has been covered by The New York Times and Al Jazeera.

Matsuda-Lawrence is a rising junior. In addition to her involvement with I, Too, Am Harvard, she is a member of campus vocal group the Kuumba Singers, and the Harvard Half-Asian People's Association.

John McCallum and Brooke Nowakowski invented microwavable "Spray Cake" in a can.

John McCallum and Brooke Nowakowski invented microwavable "Spray Cake" in a can.

Class of 2016

John McCallum sat in his Science & Cooking class freshman year dreaming up a finals project when he got the idea to create cake in a can. He brought his "experiment" back to the dining hall one day, and he and soon-to-be girlfriend Brooke Nowakowski realized they had a sweet, unusual product on their hands.

The dorm kitchen became a laboratory, where the pair tinkered, baked, and force-fed cake to their roommates. The result was as genius as it is delicious. Spray Cake uses an aerosol spray can to release air bubbles into the batter that replicates the leavening process, making baking soda and powder unnecessary. When you spray the cake into a pan, it comes out pre-risen and cooks in less than a minute in the microwave.

After earning $10,000 for winning this year's Harvard College Innovation Challenge, the pair forfeited internships in Tokyo to spend the summer researching a patent, stirring up press coverage, and finding a manufacturer. They expect Spray Cake to hit shelves in the next eight to 10 months.

Keiran O'Reilly and Rory O'Reilly invented a site that turns YouTube videos into GIFs.

Keiran O'Reilly and Rory O'Reilly invented a site that turns YouTube videos into GIFs.

Class of 2017 and 2016, respectively

A typical day for the O'Reilly brothers involves spending hour after hour chipping away at code and their inboxes all in the name of making animated GIFs. Earlier this year, the duo launched GifYoutube, a website that makes it super easy to turn any video on YouTube into a GIF.

All you have to do is take the URL of a YouTube video and insert "gif" after "www." but before "youtube.com." You set the start time and duration, and the site automatically converts the clip into a linkable and downloadable GIF.

More than 65 million people have seen GIFs made with GifYoutube, including Richard Branson, Cesar Millan, and hacker group Anonymous. The tool has been covered by TechCrunch, Slate, Engadget, and Gizmodo, and hit No. 1 on Reddit's /r/technology.

While still enrolled at Harvard, the O'Reillys (who previously co-founded the GIF messaging app Glyphic) are taking a gap year to speak to investors and develop the site in Silicon Valley. They stay in touch by participating on House email chains, surely with reaction GIF responses.

Elana Simon survived a rare cancer and is now trying to find a cure for it.

Elana Simon survived a rare cancer and is now trying to find a cure for it.

Class of 2018

After Elana Simon survived a battle with fibrolameller, a rare liver cancer, she teamed up with her pediatric surgeon and her father, the head of the Laboratory of Cellular Biophysics at The Rockefeller University, to research the differences between fibrolameller tumor cells and healthy liver cells.

Looking at 15 tumor samples from patients with fibrolameller, Simon discovered a mutation that was present in all of the samples she and her team collected — essentially, a broken gene.

Simon and her father authored a paper together in Science magazine on their findings. The discovery won't yet cure the disease, but it will certainly give new insight into understanding it and therefore better identifying, diagnosing, and curing it in the future.

Simon won the American Association for Cancer Research's Junior Champion in Cancer Research Award, where she presented her findings before 16,000 cancer researchers. She was invited to participate in the 2014 White House Science Fair. To keep her research going, Simon built a website, the Fibrolameller Registry, to empower those with the disease to share their medical data that can inform future research.

Sam Wu composes music for ensembles around the world and conducts two orchestras.

Sam Wu composes music for ensembles around the world and conducts two orchestras.

Class of 2017

A piano prodigy and self-taught composer, Sam Wu is commissioned to write scores for pianists, violinists, and entire orchestras in places as far away as Mongolia.

He grew up learning the violin while attending international schools in Shanghai. In eighth grade, an instructor showed him a software that could arrange music. "It was basically Microsoft Word" for composers, Wu says. He took up composing like it was a second language.

After interning on-tour with Chinese composer Tan Dun, who won an Academy Award for his "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" score, Wu set off for Harvard in search of inspiration. He found himself surrounded by great minds from around the world, and turned their stories and cultures into song.

Today, the music major conducts the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and Harvard Mozart Society Orchestra, and writes for every string instrument under the sun on behalf of the student-run River Charles Ensemble, Harvard's premiere symphony the Bach Society Orchestra, and international groups Shanghai Conservatory Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra.

Angela Zhang started a non-profit that gives high school students the resources to pursue their interests in science.

Angela Zhang started a non-profit that gives high school students the resources to pursue their interests in science.

Class of 2016

When she was still in high school, Angela Zhang won $100,000 and first prize in the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for her research on a nanoparticle system that might cure cancer. Now a junior, she has continued her research, but is more invested in developing her non-profit, Labs on Wheels.

Now two years old, Labs on Wheels provides high school students with the resources to conduct research and experiments on issues in science they want to investigate. Zhang collects used lab equipment from colleges and biotech companies and donates it to local high schools. She is also working on a website where teachers around the country can share and borrow resources, curricula, or offer "office hours" to other teachers and students. Labs on Wheels received $10,000 and first place in the 2013 Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Innovation Competition. Zhang presented Labs on Wheels at TEDxSan Jose last summer.

Zhang plans to start applying to joint MD/Ph.D programs soon in order to become a physician-scientist.

Now meet some students at the Harvard of the UK.

Now meet some students at the Harvard of the UK.

16 Incredibly Impressive Students At Cambridge University »

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