Gunn senior Jin Pan among Intel contest finalists | January 27, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 27, 2012

Gunn senior Jin Pan among Intel contest finalists

Pan named one of 40 finalists for Intel Science Talent Search

by Chris Kenrick

Gunn High School senior Jin Pan said he got hooked on science when he took Casey O'Connell's honors chemistry class his sophomore year.

"It brought the logic of math into the sciences," said Pan, who has loved math since childhood.

Wednesday (Jan. 25), Pan was named one of 40 national finalists in the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search.

He will present his bioinformatics project on proteins and vaccines in Washington, D.C., in March, competing for up to $100,000 in individual prize money.

Pan was one of three Bay Area high school seniors named finalists Wednesday. The other two were Alissa Zhang of Saratoga High School and Saurabh Sharan of Bellarmine College Prep.

Along with Pan, Gunn senior Jean Wang was among the 300 semi-finalists in this year's contest, which drew 1,850 initial entries from high school seniors in 44 states.

Last year, a Bay Area student was the first-place finisher in the Intel competition, reaping the $100,000 prize. It was Evan Michael O'Dorney of Danville, then a senior at Venture School, an "independent study school" that is part of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. O'Dorney's project was in mathematics.

Along with the 39 other Intel finalists in Washington next month, Pan, "who's a rock star, will be treated like he's already a Nobel Prize winner," Intel representative Julie Dunkle said in a presentation during teacher Bill Dunbar's robotics class Wednesday.

Finalists will present their projects to a series of judging panels, meet members of Congress and visit the White House, Dunkle said. Winners will be announced at a black-tie event on the final evening.

Pan said a possible application of his bioinformatics and genomics project would be to "cut down on the cost of (vaccine) production, speed it up and make a vaccine for pretty much any virus there is out there."

He began the work last summer during a seven-week program at the Stony Brook campus of the State University of New York. After the program ended, he said, he "kept on persisting, kept on coding," until he hit upon his model.

Born in China, Pan came to the United States as a toddler, first to Hawaii, and later to California. He attended middle school at Egan Middle School in Los Altos before moving to Palo Alto for high school at Gunn.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by Impressed, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Wow. That is amazing. It is truly a blessing and honor to have the scientific miracle-makers of the future right here in our town. Congratulations to both this student, but also the teachers who inspired him to reach for the stars. Great job and good luck!

Posted by congratulations, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Congratulations to Jin Pan and the other finalists!

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:42 am

Congratulations to Jin Pan and the Gunn community. Go Titans!

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I guess the science recruiters at that other school are not as good as the sports recruiters. Go, Titans!

Posted by Misha, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Congratulations, Jin! Not only are you brilliant and hard-working but a really nice guy, too.