Alex Cheng: Dig deep

Child prodigy’s don’t come around very often, but we’ve got our very own wonder here at Hillcrest in Alex Cheng!

Alex Cheng is a senior at Hillcrest High School. He has lived in Salt Lake City for most of his life, and has been at Hillcrest since his freshman year.

Since starting at Hillcrest as a freshmen, Cheng knew what he wanted to pursue. He made up his mind as a young teenager, and now, just 4 years later, is impacting people in ways hard to imagine.

As a young teenager, Cheng decided he wanted to pursue a career in science, specifically biomedical engineering. Cheng started coding in the fifth grade.

“I think it’s fun to create what you had on your own. Always something with computers or math, I’ve always been good at those two things… I think the reason I like science is because I think it’s the basis for all of life.”

Cheng is qualified for a $250,000 grant with Regeneron. 300 finalists were selected out of nearly 2,000 who submitted a STEM related research project.

“The finalists (only seniors in the competition) are each awarded at least $25,000, and the top 10 awards range from $40,000 to $250,000,” says newsroom authors. “The top 10 Regeneron Science Talent Search 2019 winners will be announced at a black-tie gala awards ceremony at the National Building Museum on March 12.”

Cheng did his project working with computers and eyes up at the Moran eye center Cheng takes computers to apply to images of the eye and tries to automatically detect diseases within the eye. What he is trying to fix is one of the most prominent causes of childhood blindness.

“Specifically my project was using machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the images for a disease called retinopathy premature,” said Cheng. “This is when babies don’t get enough oxygen and it stunts the blood vessel growth in their eye which can lead to vision complication and even blindness.”

While Cheng is working on this project in hopes to help generations to come, he is still able to manage his time in school.

Cheng mentioned that what sets smart people and regular high schoolers is something actually quite simple.

“[Smart people] work harder and have a better way of organizing their life. They have that drive and that passion to really dig deep into something.”

Being smart isn’t just about having an intellectual mind, but for someone who is a legendary scientist at 18, you may find being intellectual isn’t the key to being “smart.”

“I’m considered smart by some people, but I wouldn’t really say I’m intellectually better than most people. I would just say that I figured stuff out earlier,” he explained.

Cheng manages to focus by staying organized, and his advice to anyone with homework struggles is to organize their time. Cheng believes time management is one of the biggest problems high schoolers have, and organizing and prioritizing his time has helped in his high school career so far.

One of Cheng’s inspirations is his dad and brother who are both in computer science careers. Science and learning is just one of his passions, something he likes to do.

One mathematician Cheng admires is Paul Erdos:

“He’s worked with so many people, so like you can trace back the lineage of any mathematician of anyone who has worked with with Paul Erdos.”

Erdos was also quite the character aside from math and his studies, he would travel the world and practically “live out of his suitcase,” said Cheng.

Cheng has more than just talents in math and sciences, he is very talented at the Piano. Cheng has been playing the piano for ten years and has been given the opportunity to perform on many occasions. Cheng has played with the Utah symphony twice, and has performed in Carnegie hall.

“Piano is a really good way to take a break from academic readers, it’s a different way of thinking, and you don’t have to. It’s just different for me because I get to take a break from everything else I do. It’s just something I really enjoy. It’s a way to express emotion through a different type of medium.”

Cheng is our own communities child prodigy; he excels in the field of science and in music and everything he works at. Here is some personal advice to everyone trying their best:

“You’re probably going to succeed. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it’s more about hard work,” says Cheng. “Anyone can do scientific research or anything that they want as long as you have the drive and action to dig deep into what you want to do and seek opportunities to do what you want to do.”